2,6 billion UAH were allocated for the project “Safe roads”, but no one particularly engaged in the objectivity of statistics on road accidents, and drivers are promised high fines again – this time for unfastened seat belts.

It seems that they once again intend to take seriously the safety on our roads. Recently, the Verkhovna Rada registered the bill number 8492, in which it is proposed to increase the penalty for unfastened seat belts in cars from 51 to 850 UAH. Increasing the responsibility of drivers for neglecting their own safety and the safety of passengers during the traffic is simultaneously one of the directions of the comprehensive program “Safe roads”, adopted by the Government in April this year.

Against the background of the official statistics of road accidents, the cost of which are human lives, such steps are at first glance relevant and correct. However, experts say, if we analyze all the components of the problem, it seems that not everything has been taken into account. And this means only one thing: we again can get completely different results, and not the one we are expecting.

The problem of accidents on the roads is relevant not only for us, it is a matter of concern everywhere: 2011-2020 was declared by the UN a decade of road safety activities. European countries set a goal to reduce the number of victims to zero. In Ukraine, according to the Department of Patrol Police, only 162 526 road accidents were registered last year, in which 3432 people died and 34 677 people were injured.

The police say that the palm of superiority among the main causes of accidents belongs to violations of maneuvering rules (36.97%). The second stage is non-compliance with the safe distance (22.26%), and the third – speeding (17.34%). For January-May 2018, 57,184 road accidents have already been recorded. 41.83% of all accidents are accounted for violation of the maneuvering rules, 24.41% of accidents for “Schumachers”, 23.88% of accidents for failure to comply with the distance.

They want to punish violators with UAH

How many of those, almost three and a half thousand dead, only last year could have survived, if people were wearing seatbelts. No one knows for sure. And there is no doubt that more people would survive as there is no doubt that Ukraine is one of the leaders in the number of dead and injured. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt the bill “On Amendments to Article 121 of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses (regarding the reduction of deaths and injuries on the roads of Ukraine by increasing the use of seatbelts and helmets)”, its authors convince, due precisely to the struggle for human life.

According to the coordinator of the campaign “For Safe Roads” Olesya Kholopik, only 15% of our drivers use seatbelts. The reasons for this, the expert convinces, are the extremely low responsibility and the lack of information campaigns with the debunking of the myths about straps, so “the quickest decision is to increase fines for ignoring the belts”. People’s deputies remind, international experience also testifies that one of the most effective ways to force drivers with passengers to use seat belts and helmets is to increase responsibility for these violations. “In countries with a high level of traffic safety, fines are a significant part of income, and therefore most drivers and passengers use seat belts and helmets. As an example, in France, the penalty for ignoring the safety belt is 135 euros, Slovenia – 120 euros, the Czech Republic – 77 euros, “the explanatory note to the bill says: In Ukraine, the penalty for violating the rules for the use of seat belts and helmets is now three non-taxable minimum incomes of citizens” (UAH 51 – the author’s note).

The authors of the draft law consider that such a fine is “too indulgent and incommensurably low in comparison with the severe consequences that can be caused due to non-observance of the rules… and it creates in drivers and passengers the idea that violation of these norms is something petty and insignificant, although the result is numerous human losses”. Therefore, they propose “to increase the fine for violating the rules of using seat belts and helmets 15 times and fix it at the level of 50 thousand non-taxable minimum incomes” (850 UAH – the author’s note). However, there could not be found any calculations, based on clear and understandable criteria for all (foreign penalties cannot serve such a priori, because there are other roads and other salaries), as well as no explanation why it was proposed to set such a fine.

For example, the Deputy Director of the Institute of Economic and Management of road safety Mykhailo Berlin – again, based on international experience – clearly names the main causes of fatal accidents: there are speeding, drinking and driving, as well as ignoring seat belts, helmets and child restraints. However, for some reason, almost no one talks about the terrible state of roads as one of the causes of accidents. As they forget also that now in Ukraine 80% of the signs do not correspond to the current standards, many of them are invisible at night, and even during the day. They also do not notice that after repairing roads, signs that limited the speed of traffic and other accompanying repairs are not picked up on time. And they are, sometimes for years, backed by sandbags, remain on the roads, knocking the drivers into confusion. All this is very simple to explain: an international experience, to which we have all become so accustomed to nod, simply does not exist, because the terrible state of roads, lack of modern pedestrian crossings, stripped or bent road signs – it is our national feature, and it is easier to overlook it.

We cannot cope without objective statistics on the accident rate

“It should be taken into account that road conditions are not just pits on the roads, although they are an obvious problem”, says lawyer Vadym Volodarsky, who specializes in automotive matters, in a commentary for Opinion. “A simple example. If the European driver needs to go 500 kilometers, he went to the highway and drive in an even mode. If our driver needs, for example, to go from Kyiv to Dnipro, he will go from Boryspil by a two-lane road. This is not only a road of poor quality, the movement along it provides that either we overtake, or we are overtaken. And any overtaking with departure to the oncoming lane is a maneuver, which, with the slightest mistake, threatens not just an accident, but an accident with serious consequences. There are many such examples. And that’s why we do not have to dream about European statistics of accidents – the conditions differ radically”.

And the objectivity of statistics of road accidents, which patrol police operates, according to the lawyer, raises great doubts. “The reason is a terrible situation, both with the investigation of criminal cases of road accidents with the dead and injured, and with the patrol police, filing those accidents, where they limited it to material damage. Unfortunately, for various reasons (incompetence, corruption, bias, etc.), the mass practice of misidentifying not only the culprit (which is also important, it’s the fate of people!) but also the causes of accidents”.

The human rights activist illustrates his position as a classic case: a pedestrian crossed the avenue in the wrong place. Got hit by the car. The emergency situation is created by a pedestrian, but it is the driver who is in litigations. “In this case, the road accident already falls into the statistics section called “The fault of the drivers”. And he is accused either of not choosing a safe speed or of not being able to brake (paragraph 12.3 of the Traffic Laws is also in the section on speed). And now this road accident already falls into the statistics section “For speed”. The same happens with other mechanisms of accidents. The phenomenon is so massive that it affects the objectivity of statistical data. “And it means that at present neither the leadership of the National Police as a particular nor the state as a whole has an objective picture of the causes of the accidents”, the expert convinces. Clear figures about the causes of accidents could be if you put things in order in the investigation”, said Vadym Volodarsky. “And then it will take at least a year. And without such objective data, it is impossible to plan any measures to reduce the accident rate. They will simply be ineffective”.

Kyiv resident, who uses the penname Viktor Advokat, also notes in social networks that an accident is a complex mechanism, in which it is necessary to take into account all the circumstances contributing to the accident. “How can police officers, who have spent three months on courses, and only 10 hours of them are allocated for registration of an accident, make the right decisions?”, he asks rhetorically. “There is no way to do it, because the process of registration of an accident is minimized: a simple low-quality fixation, and then with a mass of violations. The collection of evidence is completely absent, as the inquiry service. I have been suing the police for the third year already since during the registration of an accident the policeman “forgot” to enter information about the pillar, which caused losses of 300,000 UAH. Is this really the police reform that people were waiting for?”.

The patrol police say they are doing everything to reduce the number of accidents. According to the Acting Head of the Department of Patrol Police of Ukraine Oleksii Biloshytsky, the issue of road safety requires a comprehensive solution, including the participation of the public. As he commented for Opinion, “In 2018 it is planned a number of activities, including spring and autumn commission inspections, a campaign under the provisional name “Carrier”, weeks of road safety, a special regime during preparation for floods, maintenance of vehicle escorts when transporting dangerous, bulky and heavy cargo. In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, Ukrtransbezpeka and other state and public organizations, preventive measures are carried out on the observance of traffic rules on the road on a regular basis”.

By the way, Mykhailo Berlin, who also heads the Association for Road Safety, said that one of the reasons for the increase in the number of accidents was the abolition of the State Traffic Inspectorate. Like, before the inspector of STI came to the scene of the accident and carefully filled the card account, which allowed then to analyze the causes of accidents, but now this work is not conducted. “Those, who are responsible today for safety on the roads”, one of the ex-leaders of the Traffic police of Ukraine, who spoke to Opinion, said in response to a question about the causes of the accident and the fight for road safety, “They simply do not understand what they are doing. Road services, which are involved in how traffic lights work, how much and what light is on, how to switch at intersections, should work properly. Yes, there are also troubles with road markings. In some places, it is applied in such a way that it only creates emergency situations. And those, responsible for this, do not see and do not understand”.

Safety islets and new barrier fences

One way or another, but recently Ukrainians were once again presented a set of measures, which, according to the plan of their authors, should work for the safety on the road. We are talking about the program “Safe roads” (though, it is difficult to count how many similar programs have already been presented), which was calculated until 2020, for the implementation of which from the budget were allocated 2.6 billion UAH. According to the Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who personally led a specially created Coordination Council on traffic safety issues, they began to counteract large road injuries and improve security, so “we will develop security islets, pedestrian crossings, roundabouts”. We are talking about the construction of 500 new roundabouts, for which was provided a billion UAH financing. The same number of islets of security at the entrances to settlements, for which is also planned a billion. And twice as many pedestrian crossings (this program “500 – 500 – 1000” is determined for three years). A lot of attention and money – up to 259 million UAH – are planned to be spent on liquidation of places of concentration of road accidents, which were counted about 109 in Ukraine. In general, the document provides for four levers of traffic safety management: infrastructure, supervision and control, emergency assistance and clearance. The Government predicts that if it is fully implemented by 2020, the number of dead and injured as a result of an accident will be reduced by one third.

Now, more money is being allocated for repairing roads than before, Denys Monastyrsky, an expert with the program of reforming the law enforcement and judicial system of the Ukrainian Institute of the Future, says, but even in two years the situation cannot be rectified, because almost 90% of roads require capital repairs. Experts from the Institute of the Future are convinced that for the economy and security of the movement very profitable are concrete roads: if properly built, they serve without damage for decades. However, some experts say, that these are tender procedures that prevent to carry out major repairs of the roads of Ukraine in time and quality… Although it’s really hard to understand how this can last for years. For example, the “Kyiv-Odesa” road: any driver will tell you that they repair it not even for years – decades and those pieces that have already been repaired are covered with pits for a few years and everything starts again. “I often travel this road, comparing it with the spots that foreigners do in Kyiv, observing the standards of their countries”, the 40-year-old driver Serhii Semenovych, to whom Opinion talked, shares his impressions, “So the question is not only in tender procedures but also in the observance of standards. Or are we good only at “digging in” the money in the road?”

To execute or to pardon?

Auto-lawyer Stanislav Shevchenko, speaking about ways to improve road safety, notes that improving the infrastructure of roads is certainly a very important component, but there are six main rules, the so-called taboos, which cannot be violated in any way because it is these violations that lead to tragic consequences. “This is not the result of someone else’s experience – these “taboos” are written with the blood of our drivers”, he explains to Opinion, “and, in fact, everyone knows them. It’s about alcohol driving, it’s expensive and very dangerous both for yourself and for other participants. On the observance of the rules of overtaking (when overtaking, you should usually be twice as careful, as the other driver, who is being overtaken can also maneuver, and the oncoming traffic may appear, or someone can leave the roadside, and defects in the roadway also happen). The third taboo is the rules for passing traffic lights, intersections and especially railway crossings. The fourth is the use of seat belts by both the driver and passengers. The following is the excess of the speed of movement by more than 20 km per hour permissible. And finally, compliance with the requirements of road signs, warning of danger or change in the organization of traffic”.

But one of the most important components of observance of traffic rules, Stanislav Shevchenko is convinced, is the mentality of our people, which is guided more by its internal convictions, following the principle “I know best how to act in this or that situation, I do not need any rules at all”. Therefore, the human rights activist notes, simultaneously with measures for modernizing the road infrastructure, in order to reduce the level of accidents, it is necessary to change the Ukrainian mentality. “You can achieve this only by properly educating the younger generation”, the expert believes. “First of all, parents should show the correct example to their children: to cross the roadway only on a pedestrian crossing and on the green light of a traffic light. It will not be superfluous to introduce a special academic discipline into the school curriculum – the road safety course. The police actions will also have a positive effect, all drivers violating the traffic rules, despite the brand of their car, social or political status, should be brought to justice”.

However, his colleague, Vadym Volodarsky, notes that in the fight with accidents, we traditionally follow the path of increasing punishment (and one-sided) only by drivers, while not allowing them to defend themselves in a civilized manner. And this is also a problem. “Even in the Administrative Code, changes are made that narrow down the driver’s license, that is brought to justice”, he explains. “It’s about issuing a resolution at the site of the violation, it does not provide an opportunity for effective protection, the lack of a protocol as a document, where one can lay out his own thoughts, and the like. But the very punishment, as well as penal sanctions, increase. Although, in fact, this does not lead to a reduction in the number of violators”.

Therefore, after analyzing only a part of the components of the big problem called “road safety”, it can be concluded that, on the one hand, it is not important on paper (there were many projects, but it is difficult to find effective ones) or in words (there are also promises), but it is important to take care of the road infrastructure, build really high-quality roads, and not to patch pits every single spring. On the other hand, it is more objective to approach the definition of the causes of road accidents, since fines and punishment of those, who are not the real culprit of the accident, cannot cope with the problem.

Text: Larysa Vyshynska


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