If you have a traffic accident in Costa Rica, leave the vehicles where they are and call both the Transito (Traffic Police, at 222-9330 or 222-9245) and the INS known as the insurance investigator at 800-800-8000. Both of these officials will come, eventually, to the accident scene upon notification and file their reports. Only after they do so can you legally move your vehicle.
This may cause great traffic back-ups but drivers are used to this type of obstacle and will find a way to get around you. I’ve seen traffic up on sidewalks and driving at the edge of a very scary drop-off to get around an accident. So don’t worry about blocking the road. Stick to the rules or the alternative will make you crazy. Remember my radio story?
My husband and I take our children to school each day and are in awe at the way people drive which I have mentioned before. However, what really gets us is the when we see 4 people walking abreast on a smaller than small two lane road with big trucks in one lane and our car trying to squeeze by on the other lane. Makes it kinda hard not to hit someone. They don’t even acknowledge a car is coming.
I was raised when you see or hear a car coming GET OUT OF THE ROAD! Apparantly that is not what the mothers teach their children here. In all fairness I’m sure they tell them to look out for cars but maybe they don’t tell them that they have to get out of the path of the car.
There are a lot of pedestrians killed each year and it is no wonder. Between the motorcycles and pedestrians walking down the middle of the road it’s almost certain your going to hit someone at sometime.
Another thing, if you have driven in Costa Rica and gone through a toll booth or had to stop at a light, you have no doubt seen the vendors walking between the cars trying to sell their wares. Again an accident waiting to happen, they walk between cars as though they aren’t even there.
I don’t know what Costa Rican culture says about walking down the middle of the road but it appears it is an acceptable habit. For the life of me I can’t understand someone not getting out of the way when there is a big truck bearing down on them. Another thing to ponder…
Today I saw the funniest thing and wanted to share to hopefully put a smile on your face….picture this….your driving down the road in traffic and see a semi truck with it’s lights on that appears it is heading right for you in your lane. Scary huh? When I realized this truck was not coming towards me I got curious. As I went around the truck with all the other aprehensive drivers I noticed it was being pulled by another semi cab. One semi cab pulling another backwards by a chain. What have they lost their mind, don’t they know this is VERY VERY dangerous? Then when I start to ask myself, WHY would they do something as stupid and dangerous as this, I stop and just laugh it off. Only in Costa Rica!
Traffic accidents are the leading cause of violent deaths in Costa Rica, claiming on average more than 600 lives a year for the past five years and driving up costs for the nation’s public health system. After a couple years of coasting then slowing down, the death toll and number of traffic accidents are speeding up again, according to statistics from the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI)
If you can avoid driving at night, do so. Eighty percent of insurance claims in Costa Rica come from nighttime accidents. In rural areas, be on the lookout for cows or dogs lying in the road, or for people who consider the bank of a highway a good place to hang out and socialize.
Costa Rican’s don’t drive so good from an American’s perspective and that is putting it kindly. When I first arrived in Costa Rica I was scared to death to get in a car, let alone drive one. It seemed the buses had no rearview mirrors and use their size to get wherever they want in traffic and you’d better watch out because they WILL hit you.
Taxi drivers aren’t much better but don’t use their vehicle as a weapon against you if you don’t let them in.
Motorcyclists are by far the worst ones on the roads in Costa Rica. They drive between lanes of cars and make their own lane, they cut in front of you without looking to see how close you are to hitting them. I see at least one motorcycle down per week, sometimes with fatalities. They have absolutely no sense whatsoever and I truly believe they all have a death wish. At least they are required by law to wear helmets and they all do, otherwise we would surely see more motorcycle deaths than we do now.
Then we have Mr/Ms. Costa Rica’s that simply don’t know how to drive. I’m not sure the test that you have to take to get a license here as I got mine just because I passed a medical test and had a license in the U.S. I’m told you must take a driving test but I’d be curious to know what exactly that entails (and what kind of driver is giving it) because there are more people that don’t know how to drive than do but are still on the road.
A good example would be…When you start to pull out from an intersection, we are taught in the U.S. to look both ways before crossing and make sure there are no cars coming….not in Costa Rica….people pull out with cars coming in both directions gambling that someone will stop and sometimes they don’t but most times they actually do. It’s all a big game of chicken on the roads here and the biggest car/truck/bus wins.
So if your thinking of renting a car when you come down to check the place out, you might want to give that a little more thought and rely on someone else that is acclimated to Costa Rican driving like Guardian Angels or a taxi service.
When given directions, you will no doubt hear the word ‘Semaforo’ several times. This means traffic light.
Be prepared to lose that game of chicken, but take care not to lose your life. Every day the newspapers report on the previous night’s wrecks and on the pedestrians who’ve been aplastados (flattened or run over). Most of the country’s roads are atrocious, and as for walking…there is a public service announcement on TV that urges pedestrians to wear white, and to step off into the dirt whenever they see a car coming. No mention is made of the fact that the country could use a few more sidewalks, and that drivers should be on the lookout for “obstacles,” especially in rural areas where cars share the road with horses, oxcarts and whole families walking to weddings, baptisms and funerals.
In Costa Rica, the car is the patron and the pedestrian the peon. The culture here is that cars stop for NOTHING…not an old woman limping across the street, not a stalled car, not a group of school kids trying to get to class on time. In many cultures, people are taught to drive defensively. In Costa Rica, parents teach their children to walk defensively. Costa Ricans on foot know to treat cars as the unpredictable animals they are. Follow their lead and don’t expect cars to stop just because there is a stop sign or a red light.
If you can avoid driving at night, do so. Eighty percent of insurance claims come from night-time accidents. In rural areas, be on the lookout for cows or dogs lying in the road, or for people who consider the bank of a highway a good place to hang out and socialize.
Erin Van Rheenen – Living Abroad in Costa Rica
What are all the yellow hearts painted in the middle of the road you might ask? The answer to that question is very sad…This is the place where someone was killed and it is a monument to them. A kind of reminder to watch your driving and look out for pedestrians.
Maybe I’ll just walk…
- 8 minutes-Average time spent driving around looking for a parking spot.
- 47,000 gallons-Gas wasted annually by parking space hunters in one urban shopping district.
- 100,000 hours-Driver time wasted hunting in same district.
- 40 calories-What you could burn in a brish 8-minute walk instead
The high cost of free parking.