Officials look to end aggressive driving in Russia

Moscow Traffic file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – – Marina Obrazkova, RBTH – September 4, 2013)

Starting Sept. 1, new penalties are in effect for Russian drivers. Sanctions were modified for 46 violations, and maximum fines will increase by 10 times, going up to roughly $1,500.

Changes that are taking effect in Russia’s Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO) involve increasing liability for 46 different traffic offenses. In addition, new offenses will be added, such as penalties for driving over 50 miles per hour. The minimum fine for drivers will now be 500 rubles ($15), instead of 100 rubles ($3); the maximum is now 50,000 rubles ($1,500), instead of 5,000 ($150) rubles, writes the newspaper Kommersant.

Never before have the rules for drivers changed so extensively. Traffic police believe the new changes will seriously affect the culture of driving on roads, but experts are convinced that high fines will not change aggressive driving.

The penalty will be higher in the case of a second violation, as well. Currently, a second violation is considered a violation that the driver made within a year of the previous violation (for example, after paying a fine, or after the end of a license suspension). The highest fine­50,000 rubles ($1,500), combined with a license suspension­will be applied by the Russian Traffic Safety Inspection for repeated drunk driving. In addition, license suspension can now be used together with fines; until now, this kind of combination had been prohibited.

As it was explained by the deputy chief of the Traffic Safety Inspection, Vladimir Kuzin, depending on the outcome of future analysis on the application of these new penalties, it will be decided whether or not to toughen penalties for drivers. Road service employees hope that drivers will become more disciplined and the number of accidents will decrease.

Experts, however, strongly doubt this will happen. For example, the president of the Council for the Legal Protection of Car Owners, Viktor Travin, is convinced that the number of violations is not dependent on penalties.

“Over the past few years, fines were raised repeatedly, but, as the rules were ignored, they remained ignored. Our drivers are living in a totally different environment compared to Europe. We are constantly in hurry, trying to solve a huge quantity of domestic issues, and no one looks around. No one drives a car for pleasure. People spend a lot of time in traffic jams and are then trying to make up for the lost time violating the speed limit,” says the expert.

Travin is confident that all Russians­not only drivers­are lacking respect for laws. “We are not a strictly law-abiding nation; for example, we do not always pay taxes on a leased apartment or on gifts. Psychologists say that the increase of fines affects low-obedience only for the first year and, after that, people get used to them or adapt,” said Travin. “We absolutely have to improve the overall culture of communication and respect for the law. But, as long as there is corruption and officials do not respect the laws, the population will also try to behave accordingly.”

Mikhail Vinogradov, the head of the Center for Legal and Psychological Assistance in Emergency Situations, agrees with Travin. He says that, in order to improve the culture of driving on the roads, it is necessary to start with lessons in driving school that teach a course on the psychology of communication on the streets.

“In my practice, there was a case where a girl’s car stalled. She asked for help in pulling it over to the curb. The young man took to help, but he himself created a difficult situation for other vehicles. One of the people whom he blocked on the road got out of his car and started a brawl with the helper. Constant anger, rudeness and disrespect to each other are characteristic of our drivers,” says the psychiatrist. Vinogradov is convinced that, in addition to psychological courses, there is a need to closely monitor the procedure for issuing driving licenses.

According to the official statistics of the Traffic Safety Inspection, the number of traffic offenders during the last year reached nearly 43 million, exceeding 2011 by 1.4 percent. Primarily, the number of offenders has increased due to the behavior of drivers and passengers in vehicles; pedestrians, on the contrary, became more disciplined.

In 2012, there were around 200,000 road accidents in Russia, which killed nearly 28,000 people and injured 250,000. In 2010, experts had already estimated that 85 percent of accidents in Russia happened due to traffic violations, and a quarter of those resulted from excessive speeding. On the other hand, pedestrians are to be blamed for 20 percent of cases, and substandard roads are responsible for another 20 percent.

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