Never underestimate the sheer stupidity possible Costa Rica’s roads. In 40 years of driving in some of the most infamous countries in the world I’ve never seen anything like it.
The first time I drove down the ramp onto the new section of the PanAmerican between Liberia and Canas in Guanacaste I was looking forward to something unheard of in Costa Rica – 90 kilometers per hour, two lanes each direction, limited access – a real freeway.
Of course Costa Rica delivered a big dose of reality and within 10 minutes I’d almost been killed twice. First a truck next to me swerving to avoid some imbecile driving down the wrong side of the road – in the fast lane no less. I was still recovering from the shock that anyone could be that dumb when there came another moron driving directly into oncoming traffic.
They were both taking shortcuts to get to their driveways. Since there’s no frontage road they would have to either drive past their destination a few km then exit, cross on the overpass and drive back the opposite direction a few km on a local road –OR- they could simply drive the wrong way down the freeway. Traffic laws tend to be considered more suggestion than compulsion in the land of Pura Vida!
The number of fatal or serious injury accidents in Costa Rica is truly stunning and increasing rapidly. 2018 ended with over 4,500 killed or maimed- that’s about 1 out of every 1,000 Ticos in a single year!
Let that sink in… look around on the beach and you see half a dozen people that will be in a graveyard or on life support in the next few years.
Other accidents serious enough for police involvement are epidemic with roughly 34,000 in 2018. One accident for every 25 drivers.
Drinking & Driving
There’s something about the air at the beach that temporarily interferes with people’s brains. It makes them think they should buy a condo, take up jogging and grow dreadlocks. They also drink a lot and then think nothing of driving home. By one estimate 1 out of 10 drivers on Costa Rican roads on Sunday evening are drunk. Tourist contribute too and people who would never consider doing it at home seem to check their common sense with their baggage then forget to pick it up off the carousel.
Enforcement has stepped up but it’s still common to see someone with eight beer bottles in front of them (that’s how the old time bars run a count on your tab…the empties stay) pay their bill then head to the parking lot and get behind the wheel. It’s many times more likely that you’ll encounter drunk drivers in Costa Rica than wherever you’re from.
Regular Old Texting, Eating & Applying Makeup Morons
There’s no lack of run of the mill stupidity on Costa Rica’s roads either. Sometimes the nitwit swerving into your lane and trying to kill you doesn’t have an exotic excuse, they are just texting instead of driving.
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet
Recently around San José women have started throwing themselves in front of moving vehicles and faking (or incurring) injuries. When the driver stops and opens the door they are assaulted by multiple accomplices and robbed.
You’re also likely to encounter cars and motorcycles with no lights even in the middle of the night. A friend recently lent out his bicycle and when it was returned the borrower proudly announced that he’d stripped off all those pesky reflectors because all they do is add weight and slow you down going up hills.
It’s not just drivers and riders you have to watch out for; it can be the road itself. In the cities manhole covers are stolen to sell as scrap metal leaving a meter wide five meter deep hole in the middle of the road. Especially in the wet season it’s not uncommon for the whole road to just disappear and there are special precautions for rainy driving in the tropics