Getting tough on drunk driving: The deadly accident involving actress Marina Golub has officials pulling out all the stops

Shelf of Alcoholic Beverages with Red and White Tape Across It

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Yulia Ponomareva – October 15, 2012) In the wake of high-profile road accidents in Moscow, United Russia is pushing ahead with a tougher drunk driving bill.

On Monday, representatives of United Russia, which holds the absolute majority in Russia’s parliament, confirmed that the party is moving ahead with its set of amendments toughening the DWI legislation.

In a country where 31 percent of the population mistrusts the police, according to Levada, an independent polling agency, the ruling party intends to raise the maximum fine for driving while intoxicated from the present 5,000 rubles ($161) to 50,000 rubles ($1,613).

A drunk driver will be deprived of his or her license for up to three years, while currently this period may not exceed two years.

The maximum sentence a drunk driver may receive for killing one person will likely be increased from seven to ten years ­ and from nine to 20 years if two or more people have been killed.

Yet observers worry that without a sweeping anti-corruption reform targeting traffic police this measure is certain to have one effect ­ an uptick in bribe rates.

United Russia has also come under criticism for retaining the current provision that prohibits any amount of alcohol in a driver’s blood, thus ignoring the fact that due to specifics of metabolism some people always have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood and that concentration of alcohol rises if you drink certain dairy products.

The law that qualifies any amount of alcohol in the blood as an indication of intoxication was introduced in July 2010 on the initiative of then-President Dmitry Medvedev, who suggested abolishing the previous norm that allowed up to 0.3 per mil of blood alcohol.

Two tragedies

The initiative came hot on the heels of two road accidents in Moscow that shocked the country. In late September, a drunk driver killed seven people, including five orphaned children with disabilities, as he smashed into a bus stop.

And last week famous actress Marina Golub, 54, died in a car crash as the Hyundai Getz she rode in collided with a Cadillac whose driver fled the crash scene and later published a video in which he said that he did not want to give himself up. The driver, Alexei Rusakov, said he did not believe in investigators’ impartiality and was “afraid to become a scapegoat.” He was later apprehended.

The Getz driver, who also died in the crash, turned out not to have a driving license at all. In response, Moscow’s Transport Department published a press release warning against using the services of unlicensed cab drivers. And traffic police held a weeklong raid against drunk drivers on the roads.

This week, the government and the Supreme Court will consider the new drunk driving bill.

Yet at the same time, United Russia lawmaker and head of the executive office of President Putin’s Popular Front movement, Vyacheslav Lysakov, was quoted by Interfax on Monday as saying, “I believe that the decision to leave [the clause for] the zero [per mil] is a political mistake.”

At a news conference shortly after Lysakov made his statement, secretary of United Russia’s General Council Sergei Neverov told the journalists that the final decision has not been made on whether to set forth the maximum allowed rate of alcohol concentration in blood.

“We asked our branches to discuss this issue at the regional leve ­ to collect proposals and reach a consensus,” Neverov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

Andrei Vorobyov, United Russia’s faction leader in the Duma, stated that the Duma “will develop a special mechanism that will rule out the possibility of a mistake while determining the degree of a driver’s intoxication,” RIA Novosti reported.