By on October 7, 2011

Since September 8, motorists in Costa Rica have been racking up speed camera fines worth 308,295 colones (US $600) each. Sixteen speed cameras have been flashing around the city of San Jose at a rate of a thousand per day as part of the brand new program. Those fines — among the world’s highest — are not being mailed to vehicle owners, as is the case elsewhere. Instead, motorists are expected to check their plate number on a regular basis to see if they need to pay up.

On September 26, the first set of license plates was published in the form of a 120-page list in La Gaceta, the government’s official journal. The alleged violations are sorted by day, so all of the country’s vehicle owners must scan each day of the week looking for their vehicle. Those among the 15,429 plates that have been listed so far have until October 17 to come up with the $600 in cash.

That is a significant burden in a country where the per capita income is $11,300, or less than a quarter of the earning power in the US. In response to the demand for payment options, Banco Popular is offering speed camera loans that pay off the ticket over five years for a monthly payment of 8588 colones (US $16.70).

The impact was felt in a big way by a 22-year-old woman who found she had been ticketed a dozen times in the first publication of notices. She is expected to come up with 3,699,540 colones (US $7188), or about seven months’ worth of her salary. She is appealing her fines.

President Laura Chinchilla has felt the heat from the public and is now calling for the fine to be lowered. The government set up the controversial notification system after finding no way to reliably mail citations in a country that does not have a system of street addresses. Since colonial times, directions have been given by reference to landmarks, as street signs are rare. Officials have been moving to implement a standardized address system for several years in anticipation of an automated ticketing program.

A copy of the first list of license plates is available in a 900k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File La Gaceta No. 184 (Costa Rica, 9/26/2011)


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6 Comments on “Costa Rica Unveils Most Burdensome Speed Camera Program Yet...”

  • avatar
    John R

    I’m from Panama and this, to me, is semi-ridiculous. I send stuff to my parents regular snail mail (rarely) and I mail it to an address in Panama City.

    No system of addresses, but you’re putting up stoplight cameras?? That’s like buying a PS3 and hooking it up to a TV that still has dials on it.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Ah, Costa Rica. Lovely place. Never spent any time in San Jose, but a few years ago we rented a Daihatsu Terios 4×4 and drove around the Pacific northwest area of the country. Not very many paved roads, yet we were always getting passed by people driving at least twice as fast as we were. Hard to believe that people would drive so fast on such bad roads.

    I mean seriously bad roads. On one little drive, it took us about 15 minutes before we realized we were no longer on a road and instead were on someone’s cattle ranch. Good thing they are so nice and laid back – just a wave and a “Lo siento” and we were on our way.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I been driven around San Jose before (in a taxi, dear Lord I would never attempt to get behind the wheel myself in that city), and it seemed to me red light running is the least of concerns. Absolutely insane drivers in all facets. Every single driver weaving, honking, swerving, nailing the brakes, shooting gaps in traffic 6 inches longer than the car itself. 1/4 second following distances. Motorcycles flying between travel lanes. I don’t know what the collision rate is there, but I don’t see red light cameras changing a thing.

    I’ll give them this, though: nearly every single driver there undoubtedly has a better understanding of their modest vehicle’s capabilities than we do in the US. Put American drivers in an identical driving situation and there would be carnage EVERYWHERE.

  • avatar

    the seriously expect someone to pay 5% of their annual income for a speeding ticket? What happens if they don’t? Jail? Confiscate cars? This isn’t going to end well.

  • avatar

    I rented a Suzuki Samarai and spent a few weeks driving around the western half of Costa Rica in 1995. The only thing that kept me from going back was the corrupt law enforcement that we encountered practically every day for shake downs or attempted shake downs. I feel for the Costa Ricans, as most of them were very nice, but I’m not going anywhere near such a backwards anti-car regime. It sounds like Washington DC on a national scale. They’re motive for aspiring to national mail delivery was to collect automated traffic fines that would be an unreasonable burden on 85% of their population? Tyrannny.

  • avatar

    It does seem like installing speed cameras before you have a reliable postal system is a serious failure of prioritization.

    And doesn’t “President Laura Chinchilla” sound like a muppet character?

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