10/7/2011Costa Rica Unveils Most Burdensome Speed Camera Program Yet
Costa Rica introduces some of the highest traffic camera fines in the world.
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.