An absolultely shocking experience in Costa Rica

Retires and other expats living in Costa Rica should be careful not to give electric shocks (jalonazo) to the country’s toll takers (peajeros or cobradores in Spanish). All along Costa Rica’s new route 27 and just outside of San José there are toll booths (casetas de peaje in Spanish) located on the major highways. An interesting phenomenon takes place when drivers pay their toll (peaje). Many of the toll takers receive an electrical shock when their hand makes contact with the driver’s hand while paying the toll. Some of the toll takers receive up to five small shocks per hour and forty or more during a shift.


According to one electrical engineer these shocks are from the static electricity caused by the friction produced by cars. It is interesting that newer cars generate more electricity that older automobiles . The models that produce the most shocks are the Toyota Rav4, Hyundai Tuscon and the Hyundai Accent. The experts are not sure why these models produce the most static electricity. One unproven theory is that the type of paint used on said models may be the cause of the problem.

Many toll takers now use plastic bags to insulate their hands so they won’t get shocked. Small plastic trays are also provided to the workers as a precautionary measure. However, at times any vehicle can also shock the toll takers.

Many drivers are aware of this strange phenomenon and now hand the toll takes their coins in small transparent plastic bags or use other methods to insulate the coins when handing them over.

Neither the drivers nor the toll takers should worry about the harmful effects of static electricity. According to one doctor the small shocks the one receives will not produce any serious health issues because they only last a fraction of a second and the voltage is very low. The only people who might suffer the ills effects are people with epilepsy, and only if they are constantly exposed.

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One thought on “An absolultely shocking experience in Costa Rica”

  1. This static problem is easily solved with non-conductive mats and any surfaces that the toll taker might touch while taking the toll from the driver. There is no doubt that the static is discharging across the toll taker as they are the one that is grounded. The person in the car is not grounded as the rubber tires on the car insulate the driver. The cloth seats and/or the drivers apparel is what is creating the static and storing it until it is discharged to ground. If the toll taker is at the same potential as the car driver no discharge(shock) can occur.

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