The title “the highway of death and dismemberment” always is in flux. One day headline writers consider the most dangerous road in the country to be the new Caldera highway where boulders roll downhill onto vehicles. Then there is Ruta 32 going north of San José past the cliffs in Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo where vehicles can be swept by slides into oblivion.
Now there is a new candidate: Ruta 34, which runs down the central Pacific coast from Orotina to Jacó to the Esterillos and then to Parrita, Quepos and Dominical.
Health and rescue officials are raising the alarm because the highway has had 33 major accidents since the beginning of the year, according to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The most sensational one was this weekend when four persons died in a head-on crash near Parrita that ended when one of the vehicles exploded into flames.
Curiously the Caja said that the situation was much better when the highway was not well marked because motorists were more cautious. In a statement, the Caja blamed high speeds, alcohol, sleepiness and imprudence.
All of the major accidents had severe aftermaths, said a statement attributed to Edgar Carrillo Rojas, a physician and head of the health area around Parrita. He said he was going to call a meeting among representatives of agencies involved in handling mishaps, including the Cruz Roja and the Policía de Tránsito to see what preventative measures can be adopted quickly.
He said one of the problems is that the highway passes through population centers where there are pedestrians and persons on bikes. He said that some of the accidents resulted in amputations and disabilities and that a number of the victims were young and now with uncertain prognosis.
The physician said that the major problem was from the Esterillos to an area known as Palo Seco Viejo.
The section south of Quepos to Dominical recently was paved and refurbished with new bridges. High speed was not possible when the road was gravel.