Was Ukraine supposed to survive the “Black Friday” with its deadly “harvest”, to take up the establishment of order on the roads in practice rather than in words?

We are used to treating with caution Friday if it falls on 13th, but that day on the calendar was July 20. And that morning gave no reason to expect that in the evening the country will experience the consequences of nine terrible accidents – 26 dead, with 6 children among them, and almost three dozen injured.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs together with the State Service for Transport Safety took up violators in the sphere of passenger transportation.

At the same time, social networks exploded with indignation, figuring out each of the bloody road accidents, demanding to find and punish those culprits. They promised to find out and punish. And also – to prevent such situations in the future. So, why so many lives were lost on our roads and what they really plan to do to protect road users?

That day in Mykolayiv, a minibus at speed literally flew into the truck, which stood on the roadway. In Zhytomyr region on the highway Kyiv-Chop a minibus collided with a road train, which was traveling in the same direction. In Khmelnytsky, the frontal collision of a car with a truck resulted in the death of a family with a 4-year-old child. Another child was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. At once three cars collided in Kyiv, two of which were set on fire. Also a young family with a child, who was not even two years old, died.

Faulty brakes and tired driver

Three days later the court considered the case of the accident in Zhytomyr. During the meeting, the prosecution said that the minibus had come out faulty on the line – during the trip the brakes went out. The investigation found out that the technical condition of the minibus and its equipment was not provided in accordance with the requirements of traffic safety standards and the rules of technical operation. And the driver himself was tired and exhausted during the trip. Therefore, the owner of the bus Petro Lutsyk, who is charged with art. 287 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the commissioning of technically faulty vehicles or other violation of their operation), a preventive measure in the form of house arrest for a period of two months was chosen.

As for the other culprits of those terrible events, then, as the first deputy chairman of the National Police, the head of the criminal police Vyacheslav Abroskin said, the investigation of the crashes that occurred on July 20 is under special control of the Main Investigation Department. According to him, a number of expert assessments have been appointed in open criminal proceedings, “three of the defendants were suspected in crimes in the field of road safety, two of whom have been given a preventive measure in the form of house arrest and one person has been taken into custody”.

Old minibuses will be sent to scrap metal

 On the same day, that is, on July 20, in the Ministry of Infrastructure, an extended meeting was held with representatives of the automotive industry and the leaders of the carrier companies. As the profile minister Volodymyr Omelyan noted, most of the city, suburban, intercity intra-regional and inter-regional bus transport in Ukraine is carried out in conditions that are difficult to call comfortable and safe for passengers. And the average age of minibuses exceeds 10 years, buses of medium and high passenger capacity – 20 years. At the same time, many buses that are used as minibuses are converted from trucks. Therefore, often such vehicles do not meet either safety requirements or comfort requirements.

The minister assured they continue to drive on our roads no longer than till January of the next year. Then they will be evacuated to the penalty areas, and eventually, send to scrap metal. Therefore, those carriers, who still want to do this kind of business, will have to update their own car park.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Interior is in a hurry to develop urgent measures to improve road safety, at least until the end of the tourist season. True, according to First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Serhii Yarovyi, “this is not a temporary action, but a permanent work. Now the patrol groups are enlarged by the servicemen of the National Guard. The density of patrol posts on the highways of national and international importance has been increased”.

As the official explained, the main “causes of road accidents involving carriers are improper technical condition of vehicles and conscious ignoring of the requirements of the Rules of the Road by drivers. And in pursuit of profit, unscrupulous carriers often change the construction of the passenger compartment, increasing its capacity and deliberately exposing passengers to danger in case of an emergency. All these violations must be discovered and the law enforcement agencies must react to them in a certain way”.

As the Acting Head of the Department of Patrol Police of Ukraine Oleksii Biloshytskyi told to Opinion, a thorough analysis of the accident rate was carried out – and in the shortest possible time, were developed measures to enhance road safety. The result of the operation under the code name “Carrier”, which was held from April 20 to July 3, was carefully analyzed. As noted in the police, during this time, nearly 3,000 buses under bad condition were identified, more than 27,000 violations of the Road Traffic Rules by bus drivers were documented. “We are worried”, Oleksii Biloshytskyi says, “that next to the established facts of transporting passengers beyond the assigned amount, management without the necessary documents, violation of road sign requirements, etc., the police identified 80 cases of a bus driving by drivers, who were in a state of alcohol intoxication”. Therefore, the operation “Carrier” will continue.

It cannot be without increased responsibility

 Volodymyr Groysman on July 25, without waiting for the Government meeting, gathered a special meeting on the topical issues of strengthening the security on the road. “The number of road deaths that we have daily,” the head of the Government said “indicates that our actions must be systemic in order to overcome this problem and create all conditions so that people do not get into accidents. Here, the issues of compliance with both the Rules of the Road Safety and the safety rules of drivers and other participants are very important. Coordination of actions of all participants in the solution of the problem should give the result, and we must inform the people more about how they should behave on the road”.

The Premier noted that the permanent operational activities will be accompanied by changes in legislation and increased responsibility. Therefore, the Parliament, in his opinion, should support the initiatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, first of all, with regard to strengthening the responsibility for violation of traffic rules. “All personnel and leadership of responsible structures,” the head of Government underlined at the meeting, “should be involved in the prevention of accidents. We sent legislative initiatives to the Parliament of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which were introduced by Arsen Avakov in November last year, so we will appeal to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada to consider the whole package of laws on the road safety in the first sessional weeks, in particular, the strengthening of responsibility”.

Of course, the greatest workload in this area now falls precisely on the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to the First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Serhii Yarovyi, after each road accident, specific reasons and conditions for their fulfillment are analyzed. However, the main reasons, the police say, have long been known, therefore, in addition to reducing the permissible speed in settlements up to 50 kilometers per hour, Opinion has already written about this in the material “Has the speed reduction become a deterrent to accidents?”  on July 25, movement in a circle was changed, changes also were made in the procedure for issuing a driver’s license – the first is now received only for two years.

The deputy minister explained that the draft legislative changes, which the Premier recalled, have not been considered even in the first reading, are primarily proposed to increase criminal liability for violation of traffic rules committed by drivers in a state of intoxication or in the state of drug intoxication. Among the innovations is an increase in fines for driving by a person, who never had a driving license or was deprived of it for exceeding the maximum permitted speed of more than 50 km/h, as well as reducing the so-called “speed margin” that drivers add to the maximum permissible in settlements, from 20 to 10 km/h.

The National Police said that 54 crews and 114 patrol police response teams were additionally involved, so now 540 crews work on Ukrainian roads. At the same time, the head of the Main Service Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Vladyslav Krykliy, noted that we cannot cope with the problem without automatic photo and video fixing of violations of traffic rules by drivers. “To date, the legislative base already allows the use of an automatic system for fixing violations of traffic rules, but so far there were no technical requirements for equipment that should protect the legal norms on the inevitability of punishment and not allow appeals in the courts, as was in the case with the previous attempt to launch a system of automatic photo/video fixing of violations,” he explained. “Technical requirements were developed and amendments to the technical regulation of the legislatively regulated means of measuring equipment will allow recording both violations of the speed regime and other violations on the roads”.

No licenses and faulty buses

Employees of the State Service of Ukraine for Transport Safety: its employees in mobile groups joined the increased monitoring in conjunction with patrol policemen. By the way, in social networks in recent days the topic of accidents with severe consequences is one of the most discussed. And exactly this service is accused of not following properly what is happening in the sphere of passenger transportation, where there are a lot of “gray” carriers and illegal immigrants, working on the routes. As the press service of the department told to Opinion, such accusations are unfounded, since they always conduct verification raids. As for the planned ones, they are bound by the Government’s moratorium on business checks.

“Even before the traffic accidents that took place on July 20,” the acting chairman of Ukrtransbezpeka Vyacheslav Didkivskyi explains to Opinion, “Over 46,000 buses that carried out passenger transportation and nearly 6,000 minibuses were checked by our employees throughout the country. Almost 12,000 acts of these checks on buses and almost a thousand acts concerning minibuses were drawn up. In addition, the result of such inspections is also protocols for drivers, both buses and minibuses, for violating the rules for the provision of services and security requirements for the provision of services for the carriage of passengers or goods by road, for violating the conditions and rules for the implementation of international road transport of passengers and cargo, as well as for violation of the order of business.

The figures are serious. To make it clearer, I will give the number of fines that were imposed on violators and which were paid to the state budget. Only, in fact, for half of the current year, violators-buses were ordered to impose administrative and economic penalties of almost 7,5 million UAH, minibuses – almost 450,000 UAH. Carriers, who work on buses paid almost 6,109,000 UAH of fines, on minibuses – almost 243,000. The total amount of fines that were paid by violators last year is almost 3,9 million UAH. For three days, as of July 24, 3,629 passenger buses and minibuses were checked, 887 acts on violations were compiled. This is primarily about the lack of licensing documents provided for by law, the violation of the regime of work and rest by drivers and the unsatisfactory technical condition of vehicles”.

The complex of violations, which employees of Ukrtransbezpeka fix during their roadside checks in the sphere of passenger transportation, they say in the press service, is known for a long time. “We only support checking of the passenger carriers more severely,” the Acting Head of the Department said, “That is why we believe that the time to cancel the moratorium has come: as you see, lack of control and impunity does not lead to good. In addition, it is necessary to toughen the conditions of the competitions on the routes of passenger transportation, which are announced by the local government authorities. As for interregional routes, the competitions for which our agency used to conduct earlier, now this process is subordinated to the Ministry of Infrastructure”.

Carriers will be withdrawn from the shadows

The acutest systemic problem in the department is considered primarily the existence of illegal carriers. To solve it, it is high time to modernize the licensing conditions for this type of business. Therefore, in Ukrtransbezpeka they are waiting when the new ministry agrees on new licensing terms. These conditions, Vyacheslav Didkivskyi said, have already been developed, one of the main innovations that will prevent many violations is the requirement of the honesty of the carrier. If the carrier does not respond, he will not be able to obtain a license for his activities. Modern licensing requirements, as well as the so-called Eurointegration bills, which are under consideration in the Parliament and are called upon to modernize the conditions for access to the transportation market, including passenger ones, are the necessary changes that will allow us to put the order together with increased control in this sphere”.

As Volodymyr Groysman noted, everyone knows everyone on the ground: who is legal, who is an illegal carrier, therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the responsibility of regional leaders. And he promised to appeal to the heads of the State Administrations to ensure that they react more harshly to violations of the conditions for the carriage of passengers. At the same time, according to the Premier, it is necessary to deepen the analysis of the accident, where there are dead, and transfer these findings to all patrols, and Ukrtransbezpeka together with the police should involve the whole personnel – to the leaders – to counter accidents on the roads.

According to the Minister of Infrastructure, 60-70% of the passenger transportation market is in the shadow. The so-called “black carriers” often work on the same routes, and the legal carrier, and pick up people five minutes before the official flight. Although the official, normal business suffers, people, who have to travel regularly in these minibuses, can tell about uncomfortable transportation conditions, awkward schedules and many other nuances.

But officials promise that they will finally take up this sphere with all seriousness and we should not hope that the inspections of the sphere of passenger transportation will end in a week. On the contrary, buses are planned to equip with tachographs and GPS trackers, which will show their exact location. And since August, however, while in the test mode, the electronic cabinet of the carrier should be launched, where all the necessary information will be concentrated: about licenses, buses, routes they ply, fines and location data etc. Access to this information, except for the company-carrier, will have police officers and employees of the Transport Inspection.

At the moment, they figure out who will pay for the necessary equipment: market participants want it to be public money. At the same time, officials are counting on the conscientiousness of large carrier companies that should be interested in the safety of the people they are transported.

The launching of photo/video recording is a matter of the near future

The police note that they have enough strength to change the current situation. Already, an average of one and a half thousand patrol and response teams are patrolling per day. Joint inspections with the employees of Ukrtransbezpeka are conducted from July 21. First of all, they check the bus stations and parking lots or transport sideways – in order to identify exactly illegal carriers, and then they promise to start eliminating the places of unauthorized bus stations.

When asked by Opinion, will the speed measuring devices, which drivers call a “headlight”, be returned to our roads, Serhii Biloshytskyi explained that neither “headlights” nor “Vizir” will appear. “Technical issues that accompany this process are now being considered,” the Interim Head of the Patrol Police Department said. “When such devices appear in our employees and which ones, it is still unknown: it depends on many factors, including human ones. As for the automatic photo/video recording system of traffic offenses, this issue was also considered at the meeting with the Prime Minister, and next week all necessary documents will be prepared that will allow the process to be launched. So far, the complex mobile groups have been operating for the sixth day, and to me personally, the most insulting is that our employees continue to find drunk drivers at the wheel, this is simply unacceptable. At the same time, we are resuming the work of stationary posts – on the basis of the former checkpoint of the former Road Auto Inspection. It will now be road stations. Now there are 41 of them all over Ukraine, most of them are in normal condition. Those that need repair, we will repair”.

Oleksii Biloshytskyi also said that there will be a strong responsibility for the behavior of pedestrians on the roads, who often do not even realize that they are also sterling participants of the road, both with their rights and with responsibilities. “Do not think that we do not work with them or do not punish violators,” the Interim Head of the Department of Patrol Police said, “and sometimes, to put it mildly, they simply surprise. Runs across the road 50 meters from the crossing, I ask: why are you running here, next to the pedestrian crossing, you are at risk! And it was answered: because I need here! Therefore, in addition to increasing responsibility, there must also be systematic educational work, and adults should be an example for children, otherwise, road safety measures will bring nothing”.

Despite all the innovations, the effectiveness of which we cannot feel straight away, it is worth to be more careful on the road every day under any condition. A knowledge of the traffic rules – and their careful compliance by each of the participants, whether it is a driver, a pedestrian or a bicyclist, will become the key that makes our roads safe.

By Larysa Vyshynska

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