At the end of 2008, following the instructions of the president, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the law increasing the size of fines for violations of traffic rules by many times, from 8.5-17 UAH to 510-680 UAH. The MPs motivated the decision by the fact that ridiculous amount of fines did not stop irresponsible drivers from violating the rules.

The given law drew a lot of criticism. One said the increased fines would merely increase the amount of bribes and would not change the situation on the roads, others said the owners of expensive cars did not care about the amount of fines, as they could afford any of it, and would keep violating as they pleased.

The time has shown that some critics were right, but some were wrong.

Indeed, owners of expensive cars keep ignoring the rules, and the amount of bribes has also increased. Now the average 'inspector Petrenko' takes no less than 100 hryvnias, while before now a driver could get away with only 20 hryvnias.

However, the number of advantages covers the flaws in full. After the introduction of the increased fines the rate of accidents and deaths on the road has decreased significantly.

ForUm has addressed the traffic police to obtain more detailed data. Here is what we've got:

Year 2007 - 278 837 car accidents with 9 589 fatalities;
Year 2008 - 312 751 car accidents with 7 718 fatalities;
Year 2009 - 229 885 car accidents with 5 348 fatalities;
Year 2010 - 20 4242 car accidents with 4 875 fatalities;
Year 2011 - 186 220 car accidents with 4 831 fatalities.

The statistics proves that the introduction of higher fines has resulted in the decreased rate of accidents and deaths on the roads, taking into account the fact that the number of cars in Ukraine keeps growing.

However, despite certain improvements the situation on our roads still lags far behind the European rates of accidents. In France, for example - the country commeasurable with Ukraine in population and area size - there were 3 970 fatalities registered in car accidents last year, which is 1000 cases less than in Ukraine.

Proper order on the road is not only high fines, but also discipline and mutual respect of drivers, the conditions of the roads and work of the traffic police. As for these rates, Ukraine has a long way to go.

Struggling for accident-free traffic the state follows the known path of toughening. The matter concerns a new initiative developed by MPs, aimed at improvement of road-traffic safety. The draft bill presents many innovations. Here some of them go:

- Overrun of maximum legal speed should not exceed 10 km/h, otherwise violators face administrative responsibility and fine. Current legislation provides for 20 km/h gap.

- Introduction of financial responsibility of a violator in case of minor injuries of victims. Current legislation provide for no responsibility at all. A victim can make a claim only though a civil lawsuit.

- Drivers of public transport are prohibited to collect fees on the move.

- To prohibit officially unauthorized trade activity along the roads; permission can be obtained in a traffic police department.

- Maximum distance to cover for one driver is 550 km, if more two drivers are required.

- To prohibit billboards along the road. According to the authors of the draft bill, the commercial distracts drivers.

- To prohibit transportation of children under 12 or less than 145 cm of height without child seat.

- To introduce mail notification about a fine for traffic rules violation, basing on traffic camera surveillance.

These are not all, but the most important, in our opinion, innovations, which we want to analyze proceeding from the common sense and Ukrainian realities.

Obviously, a child seat is a must, as it may save many children lives. For even with a slightest frontal collision a child can easily fly out of the car, while an adult will suffer maximum a concussion. Fake excuses like 'no money for a seat' are no longer valid: if one found money for a car, he can also find money for the safety.

The initiative to reduce the gap between the speed limit and its maximum overrun does sound like a good idea. Everybody knows there is a big difference between the braking path of a car going 60 km/h and the one going 80 km/h. Sometimes the difference may cost a life. Some countries fine even for 5 km/h overspeed.

However, this innovation must be balanced, and it would not hurt to ban traffic police from installing speed limits on the road parts, where the traffic conditions allow safe high speed driving. For example, what do make of 60 km/h speed limit in a field or forest, or on the four-line road with cement dividers?

At the same time, the city speed limit on the roads with uncontrolled crosswalks should exceed 50 km/h, so a pedestrian has a chance to cross the road without lethal outcome.

Introduction of financial responsibility for minor injuries is also a good idea. If a driver or a passenger breaks his forehead because of some asshole on the road, who cut him off, there must be a legal punishment for such caddish behavior.

To remove bill boards is not that bad idea as well. Apart from distracting drivers, they cover the street signs and take away from the scenery, especially in the historical center. In addition, it would not hurt to remove trade tents from the roads. For some reason these tents are usually installed right in front of dangerous turns, impeding drivers to see what is coming. Despite the fact that such violations cause serious car accidents, the authorities do little to change the situation.

As for the unauthorized trade along the road, this initiative will hit the pocket of first of all farmers and village residents, for who selling seasonal fruit and vegetables is the only gain. Besides, taking into account Ukrainian realities, the trade itself will not disappear, but the farmers will have to pay a certain fee for traffic police to turn the blind eye.

The distance limit of 550 km for one driver is questionable, but the MPs obviously went easy on transportation companies, arguing that the distance between major cities often hardly exceeds 550 km.

The initiative to fine bus drivers for collecting fairs on the move is great, but unfortunately difficult to execute. Our people are not so self-conscious to report every violation.

And finally, the decision to mail fine protocols basing on traffic surveillance footage is exceptionally unfortunate, as there are numerous arguments speaking against the initiative.

Following the cancellation of obligatory authorization to drive someone's private vehicle, exactly how  will the camera prove it was you behind the wheel? Since a camera shoots the license plates of the vehicle, it could have been your neighbor driving to a drug store by your consent. Well, the authors of the draft bill explain that the car owner should provide proofs he did not drive at that very moment. Seems easy, but again, how exactly is one supposed to prove it? Bringing the neighbor to a police station? Bringing witnesses? Asking for a confession? Exactly. The initiative does not do any good, just creates additional problems to vehicle owners. The official owner will be always to blame, or to pay in our case, and no presumption of innocence will help this time.

So, what is the best solution? We'd say more active work of traffic police officers will do. Instead of hiding in bushes waiting for a 'bribe' to arrive, the traffic police should actually thoroughly patrol the streets and stop and fine violators on the spot. In this case they will be 100% sure they fine the right person.

In addition, the traffic police should not only punish but also prevent violations. The matter is important, especially for violators with fat wallet. May be the money is not a problem for them, but the time wasted for registration and documentation of a violation will hopefully make them think twice before violating for the second time.

Unfortunately, for now it is a far cry. The author of this article observes it all the time, when traffic officers watch expensive cars driving on sidewalks at rush hours, but don't really see them...or prefer to ignore.

However, the MPs still have time to improve and revise the draft bill. The question is whether they will bother to do it. Well, time will show...

The last thing to say. Dear lawmakers, do something about aggressive drivers, who do not seem to directly violate the rules but with their crazy driving merely force others into violations. The draft bill does not say anything about such cases, but it would be great to feel safe on the road again with those nut cases gone.

Dmytro Khilyuk


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