Well, last week I was involved in my first ever car accident with me behind the wheel.
It happened in the center of the city of Liberia , in Guanacaste  province, Costa Rica . No bad thing, as it turned out, as my car rental company—U-Save —has an office outside town near Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport.
How it happened is irrelevant to this post, but the post-accident experience may serve readers well.
Firstly, I was wise to have taken out the full insurance package with U-Save, as my vehicle—a Mitsubishi Montero (Challenger)  (a rugged, high-ground-clearance 4WD perfect for exploring Costa Rica)—was undriveable and had to be replaced. I had been struck front end, square-on, driver’s side, smashing the steering gear.
I also knew the first rule following an accident: do NOT move the vehicle. Instead, I called U-Save while the other driver called the tránsitos—the Costa Rican traffic police . U-Save also called the tránsitos, who arrived after about 30 minutes.
The police drew a diagram of the accident and began measuring the distances from the various curbs.
They then asked to see each of our respective licenses (plus my passport) and registration and insurance details. (The other driver sheepishly admitted to not having insurance, and was informed by the police that he would be fined for that infraction.)
However, they asked neither of us any questions about how the accident happened.
Nonetheless, I pointed out the long skid marks of the other vehicle, suggesting that he was speeding. The marks measured about 8 meters long… in a 30 kph urban zone. According to the Road Safety Authority , a vehicle traveling at 30kph should come to a stop within 10.8 meters without skidding, including reaction time (5.5 meters) and braking (5.3 meters). To my knowledge, the police didn’t even note the skids marks on their diagram.
It concerned me that the other driver—an attorney and regional director of a government office—was well known to many of the people passing by. In a country where results depend to large degree on who you know, this seemed not to bode well for the ultimate assigning of responsibility.
The police then informed us that we could move our vehicles from the junction to permit a free flow of traffic.
Meanwhile, U-Save called me back to give me the name of the local insurance inspector who would soon arrive to assess the situation (I was later told that he assigns responsibility for the accident). When he arrived, he also drew his own diagram with measurements, and began to photograph my vehicle. The other driver had already driven away.
U-Save staff arrived shortly thereafter with a shiny new Mitsubishi Montero and within a few minutes I was on my way.
This is the third time I’ve utilized U-Save and I have been consistently impressed with their service.
Meanwhile, here are a few extra pointers in the event of a traffic accident in Costa Rica:
• Never move the vehicles until the police arrive and instruct you to do so. Do not let honking traffic pressure you into moving your car.
• Get the names, license plate numbers, and cedulas (legal identification number) of the other party and of any witnesses
• Make a sketch and take photos of the accident scene
• Call the tránsitos (tel. 117 or 2523-2380)
• In case of injury, call the Red Cross (tel. 128 or 911, or 2410-0599)
Hopefully your visit to Costa Rica will be accident, and trouble, free!
Now that you’re ready to travel to Costa Rica, buy Moon Handbook Costa Rica .
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal&Monteverde  pocket guide.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker