Ms. Chinchilla weighs in on $600 speeding violations

President Laura Chinchilla asked traffic officials Monday to institute a system of rational traffic fines that relate to the socioeconomic condition of the country. The president made the request when she met with Francisco Jiménez, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, Silvia Bolaños, director of Consejo de Seguridad Vial, and others at the president’s home in the mountains above Santa Ana.

The president is recovering from minor surgery Friday.

Casa Presidencial gave a summary of the meeting. The government intends to expand the system of automatic cameras on the highways, the summary said. In the first four months of 2012, cameras will be installed on Ruta 32, Ruta 27, the Interamericana Sur, the Bernardo Soto highway and several other points in the country.

Ms. Chinchilla asked that cameras be installed near certain elementary and high schools by the start of the next term in February.

The system began issuing fines automatically, and motorists had to consult a list to see if they had been ticketed. There have been appeals to the Sala IV constitutional court saying that the $600 speeding fine is disproportionate.
The Spanish-language press has been filled with stories of motorists who accumulated six or eight tickets in just a few weeks. If motorists do not pay, they will have to pay when they renew the marchamo at the end of the year.

Casa Presidencial did not say how much of a fine the president thought was appropriate.

The Casa Presidencial summary was upbeat. It said that daily traffic fines have been reduced from 2,602 at the beginning of September to 350 violations a day at the end of the month. The summary also reported that traffic officials said that accidents decreased from the 4,700 reported in the month of May to the September figure of 3,100.

Other changes were listed as improving the signage leading up to the traffic cameras, the creation of an informational campaign, improving the way violations are handled, perhaps with the use of banks as payment centers. The meeting also discussed studying the speed limits.

The cameras are mainly set up in stretches where the speed limit is 60 kph or about 37 mph. Highways like the General Cañas from San José to Alajuela also have sections where the speed limit is 90 kph or about 56 mph. Sometimes it is not clear where the transition takes place.

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