Rains Contribute to Traffic Light Failures

Driving in any city in Costa Rica is challenging enough in perfect conditions. But when it rains – and the traffic lights fail – even a short jaunt across town can feel like a perilous journey.

In Costa Rica, there are around 1,300 different traffic light “systems” or nodes that maintain some sort of order on Costa Rica’s streets. According to a recent report by Noticias Repretel, around 600 of them experience a failure during an average month. That number increases by 10% during the rainy season. The main causes of failure are short circuits due to water infiltration and lightening.

Only Three Repair Crews

According to Diego Rugama, head of traffic lights at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT), said that there are only three crews who repair traffic lights in the entire country. This means that when there is a failure in the Greater San José Metropolitan Area, there is generally a one-day wait time to get the system up and running again. The wait for a repair can be up to six days in remoter areas.

When a light at a busy intersection fails, the police generally arrive to direct traffic.

According to Rugama, “When a traffic light is out of service, [drivers] have to follow the vertical and horizontal signage along the roads.”

This is easier said than done, of course. If you’ve spent any time in the country, you know that traffic signs are treated more as suggestions, not hardfast rules.

How to Drive When The Traffic Lights Are Out

1. Go slow. This is your most important tool in driving in areas with failed traffic lights. Slow down when approaching intersections.

2. Do not assume you have the right of way. Even if you do, someone on the cross street might think they have the right of way. Fools tend to blow through intersections without a second thought.

3. Follow the Rules of the Road. We all learned how to deal with a four-way stop in Driver’s Ed class. However, many others will likely not follow these rules. Which leads me to the next point:

4. Stay calm. Your blood pressure will increase at the chaos of the intersections. Try to make sense of it, sneak into a space when you can, and refrain from shouting or flipping the bird at drivers.

5. Stick out your nose. If an intersection looks to be hopelessly jammed, stick your nose into the mess and do what you can. It might take a while, but it’ll get sorted out.

6. Report it. You can report malfunctioning traffic lights on MOPT’s website or by calling 2255-4325.

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