Road deaths from traffic accidents are a major concern for many countries, and the number of accidents has been increasing not only in Costa Rica, but in the world. In 2016, around 1.25 million people died on the world’s roads. Most of these deaths were attributed to apparent speeding and lane encroachment.

The World Health Organization reports that more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and is exposed to air pollution from traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, which are associated with increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. In other words, they not only lead to death but also carry an economic cost through lost productivity or medical expenses. For example, in 2016 China had about 2 million traffic accidents with a total economic cost of about $300 billion.

Traffic Accidents in Costa Rica

Moreover, traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in Costa Rica. The country has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in Latin America. This is not only due to the lack of infrastructure, but also to the lack of education, road control and civility.

Roy Barrantes Jiménez, coordinator of the Management and Evaluation Unit of the National Road Network of LanammeUCR, highlights that: Until 2020, of the National Paved Road Network (5 200 km) 88% was in good condition, being candidates for maintenance and regulatory recovery activities, the remaining 12% were candidates for rehabilitation activities. However, in the last report 1382 km of roads were identified as highly fragile (26 % of the National Paved Road Network), due to lack of maintenance contracts for almost 2 years and this has caused deterioration such as holes, sinkholes, landslides and cracking, as well as flooding problems due to lack of cleanliness in the hydraulic drainage systems.

This leads to the undeniable conclusion that there is a serious social and infrastructure problem. Traffic accidents are a major problem in Costa Rica. They represent 15% of all deaths in the country and are the second leading cause of death among people between 15 and 29 years of age.

Traffic accident

Insufficient Measures

Costa Rica is looking for ways to reduce these numbers: improving road safety, applying harsher penalties for drunk drivers and increasing the number of police on the roads. These measures have helped but have not been enough.

On the other hand, the government has been trying to implement stricter regulations that would decrease the number of accidents, but they have not yet found an effective solution. The Ministry of Public Security and Social Welfare has been working with different organizations to find an effective solution to these traffic accidents. Although the bill that reforms the traffic law establishes an advanced road safety course, in reality there is no real road education in the country that emphasizes cultural change and behavioral change, which are fundamental elements when talking about road safety.

Traffic Accident Figures

Traffic accidents are a major public health problem in Costa Rica. According to data from the Ministry of Public Safety, accidents have increased by 10% in the last year.

In 2021, Costa Rican authorities reported that there were 1,853 accidents and in 2022 this figure rose to 2,077. This is a 250% increase in just two years. The data also shows that of these 2,077 accidents, 589 were fatal and there were 2,488 injured.

The percentage of traffic accidents has been steadily increasing in recent years with a higher number of fatalities and injuries than before.

In summary

  1. Traffic accidents are one of the main causes of death in Costa Rica.
  2. The government has been trying to implement regulations to reduce the number of accidents, but they have not yet found a truly effective solution.
  3. According to data from the Secretariat of Public Safety, accidents have increased by 10% in the last year.

Author: Zelda Walters for Sensorial Sunsets