Monday, October 24, 2005

Things to remember while driving in Costa Rica

You must be 18 years of age to drive in Costa Rica. A driver's license from your home country is valid for three months.

Traffic proceeds on the right-hand side of the road. Speed traps are common on the Pan-American highway, and speed limits are enforced rigorously in many areas of the country.

Unless otherwise indicated, minimum speed on highways is 40 kilometers per hour (k.p.h.). The speed limit varies and is posted by the road. On highways and secondary roads the speed limit is 60 k.p.h., unless otherwise indicated.

In urban areas, the speed limit is 40 k.p.h., unless otherwise indicated. Around school zones and in front of hospitals and clinics the speed limit is 25 k.p.h.

Driving on beaches is strictly prohibited everywhere, except when there is no other path connecting two towns.

Motorists with expired licenses and vehicles that have not undergone the mandatory vehicle inspection, (revisión tecnica) will get a ticket.

Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is strictly prohibited. The law enables police officers to perform alcohol test on drivers. Officials issued a reminder that more than two beers can put someone over the legal limit of 0.49 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. If a motorist registers between 0.50 and 0.99 grams per liter of blood, he or she is considered to be pre-ebriedad, the Costa Rican equivalent of driving while abilities are impaired.

Drivers who register 1.0 grams of alcohol per liter of blood are considered drunk and run the risk of having their vehicle confiscated and losing their license for six months, officials said.

Talking on a hand-held cellular telephone while driving will earn you a ticket. Motorists have been encouraged to use a hands-free type of cellular telephone device.

The law requires all car passengers to wear a seat belt.

Pull over if a police officer signals you to do so. Police officers may ask you to stop if there is an accident ahead, a checkpoint or if you are violating the law by not carrying a license plate or exceeding the speed limit, for example.

Your personal documents and the vehicle's registration papers are private property and may not be retained by police officers for any reason.

If you are involved in an accident, always wait until a police officer arrives. Do not move your vehicle. The officer will prepare a report. You may also report the accident by calling 911 or 800-0123456.

Under no circumstances give money to traffic police or other police officers. If you believe a traffic police officer or any other police officer acted inappropriately or you have questions regarding their behavior, call 257-7798, ext. 2506, and ask to be referred to the nearest police station.

If a police officer insists on stopping you or retaining your documents for no apparent reason, ask him to escort you to the nearest police station to clear the problem.

Drive defensively and stay alert. Do not stop for people making signals and never stop for hitchhikers.

Do not drive through or park your car in poorly lit areas. Never leave your car on the street; always park it in a safe parking lot. Do not leave any belongings in the car where they might be spotted by passersby.

Keep your car doors locked at all times. If you are driving in downtown San Jose, keep the windows shut.

Check your car and make sure you are carrying the proper documents before you begin to drive. If you are given a ticket, please pay it at the nearest stateowned bank and present a copy of the receipt to the car rental agency when you return the car.

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