29 march 2013

Meeting with road safety experts


Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, everyone. We have met at this interesting and useful place, which also looks quite modern. Logically, we will talk about road safety with experts and Interior Ministry officials.

Why have I proposed this meeting? We have met more than once and discussed a variety of road safety issues in different formats and with different people. I believe that all of these meetings helped. Even though our achievements are not that numerous, we still manage to find compromise solutions and coordinate proposals on improving legislation. This time I have proposed a meeting because we will soon need to discuss a special federal targeted programme on road safety to 2020, which is why I suggest that we discuss our goals within this programme and also any other acute road safety issues.

I will not be talking about what has been recently done in this sphere, about our achievements and drawbacks. I want to hear what you have to say, as this is the real purpose of talking with experts, with those who have a special interest in the subject matter at hand. Anyway, we have been improving legislation, which has pleased some and displeased others, as usual. Some think that we are moving in the right direction, while others say that we absolutely must not do this. 

This is probably how things should be because different opinions will always be voiced. I repeat that legislation is being improved. Video cameras are being installed on motorways, and the relevant approaches towards approving basic documents in the State Duma are being formulated. This includes such a widely-publicised issue as stiffer sentences for driving under the influence of alcohol and a number of other issues. 

I would like to mention some statistics. Naturally, our colleagues will probably elaborate on all this later. The number of road accidents had been decreasing by about 7% annually since 2006. Unfortunately, there has been a small increase in the number of road accidents in 2012, including the number of fatalities and injuries. These very sad statistics represent the lives and health of real people, including very young people and children who are killed and crippled in many cases. Quite recently, there was another terrible accident in the Vologda Region. Six people were killed and over 20 injured after a bus collided with another vehicle. Many children from a St Petersburg children’s home were involved in the accident. Unfortunately, this shows that we are still not up to the mark in this area. Let’s discuss the causes of road accidents, too. At any rate, we need new methods to influence the situation, and not just observance of traffic regulations. There are some other well-known causes. “Road wars” annually claim about 30,000 lives. These statistics are terrible. 

Overall statistics are also negative because, unfortunately, several times more people are killed in Russia per every 100,000 of the population than in European countries. And yet Russia has fewer cars than Europe.

Road accidents are caused by numerous factors, including bad roads and poor traffic organisation. We are working in all these areas. But the situation here is not changing as quickly as we would like. Sentences must be unavoidable for anyone who violates traffic regulations. We must move from theory to practice in this respect. As regards fines, currently drivers pay only for 50% of traffic tickets. We believe that the procedure of paying fines should be simplified, and that drivers should be able to make online payments and from their mobile phones. Let’s discuss this issue, too.

And, of course, we should discuss education, ways of explaining what drivers should and should not do on the road. As a rule, this involves driving lessons and basic driving skills. You and I are meeting at a specialised agency called the State Inspection for Road Traffic Safety (GIBDD). Drivers are trained at GIBDD divisions. Obviously, the situation in other places is not as good as here. At any rate, the equipment, teaching aids and methods need to be upgraded. Furthermore, we need to establish tough oversight over driving schools and driving exams. In addition, we need to declassify traffic accident statistics involving various categories of drivers, including beginner drivers.

The Government Expert Council and the National Research University – Higher School of Economics have recently assessed the traffic safety situation. The relevant survey has been completed, and proposals submitted. On the whole, I suggest that we use this platform to discuss these issues, as it is well suited for this conversation. A number of speakers will take the floor, as planned. Naturally, I am sure that some people will make unscheduled statements, and that they will say a few words about the current situation. I won’t make any formal rules, because I don’t like doing this.  Everyone who wants to may take the floor. Perhaps we should start with the more detailed reports. After that, we will exchange opinions and single out other issues that we should discuss. Who will start? Mr Fyodorov, you know the ropes. Please, take the floor.

Vladimir Fyodorov (Member of the Federation Council and Member of the Government Commission on Road Traffic Safety): Thank you. Mr Medvedev, colleagues. Mr Medvedev, first of all, I would like to thank you personally and the Government for your constant focus on traffic safety issues. You have rightly noted that you’ve chaired various meetings, that you talk to people, and that you know the situation. The targeted federal Road Safety programme was completed last year.

Regrettably, it did not reach its objectives in full. However, the number of people killed in traffic accidents fell by 20% from 34,500 to 28,000. The number of fatalities caused by drunk driving has been reduced by 1.7 times. Unfortunately, in the past two years the situation has deteriorated and the decline in fatalities has stopped.  

In 2012, the number of accidents increased by almost 2% compared with 2011 and the number of fatalities grew slightly. However, in 2012, there were at least 38 more deaths than in 2011, and the number of injured increased by nearly one third of a percentage point. 

The majority of accidents, or 87%, were caused by the drivers’ violations of the traffic rules. The proportion of fatalities due to these causes remains the same, 86%, or 24,000 deaths. The majority of deaths on the roads were caused by speeding – these accounted for 44% of fatalities, or 10,500 deaths. The second cause, driving in the opposite traffic lane, accounts for 25% of accidents involving fatalities, or over 5,000 deaths. These are followed by violations of the rules in driving through intersections, which account for 1,500 deaths. Of 8,266 passengers killed, every sixth passenger did not use safety belts. Every fifth underaged passenger was killed because child safety seat or safety belt were not used. So, last year we buried over one hundred kids.   

Every eighth road accident, or over 12%, is related to traffic rule violations committed by drivers with less than three years’ driving experience. The only positive aspect last year was the improvement in pedestrian discipline, which helped to reduce the number of people killed and injured roughly by 8%.

One third of traffic accidents took place on roads outside of populated areas. Nevertheless, almost two thirds of fatal accidents occurred on such rural roads, and the number of fatal accidents is increasing on these roads. They are caused by speeding and the absence of speed limit signs on some roads, although many countries have speed limit signs on such roads. Every eighth fatal accident is registered on roads that do not meet the standards.

Road safety continues to be strongly affected by drivers without driving licenses. Road accidents involving drivers without driving licences killed almost 3,000 people, or one in every nine people killed through a driver’s fault. 736 people were killed exclusively through the fault of drivers who had lost their driving licences for gross violations but continued to drive. 

Mr Medvedev, given this situation on the roads, it is desirable that the Government does not reduce the funding under the new programme to be approved. I know, we discussed this at the commission meeting held by Mr Shuvalov. The Ministry of Finance has proposed to allocate just over 18 billion roubles for the programme. That is even less than the funding for the previous programme. Moreover, the concept you approved with your executive  order, provides for a significantly higher amount – it exceeds the Finance Ministry’s proposal by 2.5 times. I think that all the participants of our meeting will agree that safety cannot come free. 

I fully support your point that it is necessary to improve our legislation. We must increase drivers’ and pedestrians’ liability for traffic violations, especially for violations that cause accidents. In my view, it would be advisable to revive the practice of taking away driving licences for serious and systematic violations of traffic regulations. In fact, such behaviour of drivers is socially dangerous. It is a well-known fact that the LDPR has submitted relevant proposals on dangerous driving. However, when a driver systematically violates traffic regulations over a period of twelve months, I believe that such offences can be considered premeditated rather than careless actions. This practice exists in many countries and it proved effective in Russia in 1993-1997 when the number of those killed on the roads was reduced to 27,000.  

Dmitry Medvedev: When was that?

Vladimir Fyodorov: The so-called merit point system was in force between 1993 and 1997.

Dmitry Medvedev: Were there separate administrative regulations?

Vladimir Fyodorov: Yes, there were. Under those regulations, 100,000 driving licences were suspended in one year out of the 35 million  offenders. These were the drivers who increased the risk for others with their dangerous conduct.  

Naturally, I agree that it is impossible to improve road safety just by toughening punishment for violations. We should also take organisational and economic measures – there is no doubt about that. We should also improve our legislation on traffic safety in general. I think we should revise the federal law on road safety without delay. The existing law was adopted in 1995. At that time economic conditions were entirely different and it has become outdated. About 20 supplements and amendments have already been made to it, so I think we should draft a new version of this law.

We must elaborate laws that would set out procedures for granting driving licences, starting from health indicators and training and ending with restoring the right to drive. I think we should probably think about amending the law on traffic because we do not yet separate such notions as traffic organisation and traffic. It is disappointing that the draft programme for 2013-2020 has a whole section about the need to adopt relevant laws but does not contain even one draft resolution, let alone any laws. All sentences end with statements about the need to conduct research or draft proposals. I think we should look at this section once again.

Naturally, it would be great to improve driving culture. I’m pleased to see representatives of public organisations here. We should develop the legal consciousness of all drivers and intolerance of the neglect of social and legal norms on the roads in society.

The media should play a big role in this respect. Take the magazine Za Rulyom (At the Wheel), which will celebrate its 80th anniversary in April. Avtoradio (Auto Radio) is also represented here. It is 20 years old but they have given up on traffic safety. They have assumed representative functions and often tell their audience how to evade responsibility. They are shaping a negative image of the traffic police, which represents the state. Or take the Transport Publishers, who will also celebrate their 90th anniversary. Mr Blinkin (Mikhail Blinkin, Director of the Institute of Transport Economics and Policy at the Higher School of Economics National Research University) is smiling because we have discussed this issue. In the past 20 years they have not published a single book on traffic safety although they did it in Soviet times and translated the best foreign publications. I think we should do something about this by concerted effort.

Perhaps administrative measures won’t help here but we must promote tolerance in drivers and intolerance to traffic violations. We must do this. I don’t suggest returning to party responsibility but maybe this aspect of our life is worth considering. Thank you for your attention.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Go ahead please.

Konstantin Abramov (member of the Federation Council and the Government Traffic Safety Commission): Good afternoon, Mr Medvedev, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to tell you about the results of a sociological study conducted recently by VTsIOM (Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion) in cooperation with the movement for traffic safety and the Higher School of Economics National Research University. These studies were devoted to this issue and I’d like my colleagues to load some information for a brief presentation. We are ready to present more information on this issue in handout materials or after the meeting.

So, the sociological study is titled Road Safety Through the Eyes of Drivers, Traffic Policemen and Society. Next slide, please. Its goal was to determine the best ways to enhance traffic safety on the roads. In more detail, the following objectives were set: to study the public attitude to the situation in traffic safety; reveal the main reasons for traffic violations; define social inequality on the roads as a factor affecting traffic safety; determine how many drivers enjoy privileges; and study the attitude of drivers, the public and traffic police experts to the major initiatives on traffic safety. VTsIOM experts polled people aged over 18. They selected drivers from different strata and made a serious study this March. They also polled 50 traffic policemen anonymously – 30 in Moscow and 20 outside it.

The next slide shows the public assessment of traffic safety – 86% of respondents consider traffic safety an urgent issue and 38% said they had car accident victims (dead or injured) among their family members and friends. Some 66% of Russians believe that lack of drivers’ discipline is the main reason of fatal car accidents.

Next slide, please. So what are the main reasons for traffic violations? Half of those polled named the low culture level the worst problem. Lack of tough sanctions for violations comes next, followed by ineffective traffic regulation and privileges for some categories of drivers.

Next slide, please. What drivers violate traffic rules in the opinion of those polled? The most popular answer is as follows: all drivers violate these rules regardless of their social status. Some 43% said the social status does not matter – all drivers violate traffic rules to the same degree. But it is very interesting that this slide shows a large number of so-called privileged drivers on the road. Our people believe that they also violate traffic regulations. First of all, 37% of our fellow Russians say law-enforcement officers mostly commit these violations. An additional 35% of Russian citizens say members of parliament and their aides are the second largest category of violators. Furthermore, 29% of Russians say the business elite comes third in terms of the number of traffic regulations violations.

Let’s see the next slide, please. In all, 77% of motorists say most potential violators own special licence plates. And 72% of our fellow Russians say cars with tinted windows may also indicate that their owners are potential violators. Motorists also believe that expensive cars are another factor indicating a potential violator on motorways.

It may be interesting, but 75% of motorists believe that unofficial privileges lead to high fatality rates during road accidents. In reality, this is not proven by statistics nor by traffic police officers (GIBDD). But the public is confident that unofficial privileges also contribute to the great number of road accident fatalities.

Let’s see the next slide, please. The results of an opinion poll involving GIBDD officers are quite impressive. The existence of licence plate series, which prove that it is pointless to flag down any vehicle with these plates because there will be no penal sanctions, and because GIBDD inspectors will face major problems. Those drivers who have no right to own departmental licence plates but who acquire them through unofficial channels are, first of all, confident that they will not be punished, and that they are untouchables. This specific category of drivers creates special problems for all other drivers.

Next slide, please. An assessment of the proportion of this category of road-traffic participants, the so-called privileged drivers, is very interesting. GIBDD inspectors estimate the share of these potential violators at 20%-40%. Their proportion in the regions is much smaller, 2%-10%. A lot of interesting statements and remarks have been made about these drivers with unofficial privileges in the regions when we conducted this survey. This category of drivers also includes a Governor’s personal barber, for example. And they know that, if someone calls up the administration, the inspector would face certain problems, and that it would be better to let him go.

Dmitry Medvedev: In reality, this is quite fair.

Konstantin Abramov: Let’s take a look at the next slide, which is about the relevant behaviour strategy when a potential violator has been exposed. Of course, the absolute majority of sober-minded Russians try to steer clear of these cars. But 12% of motorists say they are ready to behave more aggressively, not to let them pass or change lanes. These people are trying to show that all drivers are equal on the road.

The next slide, please, which assesses the effectiveness of road-safety measures. In reality, the absolute majority of Russian society supports all measures currently being implemented, one way or another. As for stiffer penalties for repeat offenders, 84% of Russian citizens either agree or strongly agree with the statement that this must be done, and that this measure is effective. Over 80% of Russians approve of such measures as the installation of stationary video cameras and roving video cameras on departmental cars, recording of traffic violations using private video cameras and the materials of the Blue Buckets Society public-activists group. They believe that such measures are effective.

Let’s see the next slide, please. GIBDD officers, motorists and the people are voicing a number of interesting proposals. Russian society wants to see some drastic improvements in the road safety sphere. The low level of culture of all traffic participants, regardless of their social status, is the main factor contributing to violations of traffic regulations. A considerable number of traffic participants point to the existence of privileged groups, including representatives of law-enforcement agencies, government agencies, the business community and other elite categories. What is the outcome? We are witnessing social consolidation of drivers against these groups. The principle that punishment should be unavoidable, which is the basic crime-prevention principle, does not work. GIBDD inspectors are becoming less motivated to fulfill their duties effectively. People trust these inspectors much less than all other officers in the Interior Ministry system. As I have already said, expert estimates put the number of privileged drivers at 2%-10% in the regions and at 20%-40% in Moscow. Let’s see the next slide, please.

A social consensus with regard to all the main road safety initiatives has been formed in society. In involves stiffer penalties for repeat offenders and for aggressive driving, the installation of video cameras, which would record all actions of drivers and all communication with GIBDD inspectors, the introduction of tough penal sanctions for the use of one’s official status in the event of traffic violations, the abolition of licence-plate series, higher fines for traffic violations, the installation of roving video cameras and speed metres on departmental cars and the use of GLONASS transceivers. Media outlets should also actively report penal sanctions for high-ranking violators. That concludes my fairly brief report.

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s enough. Thank you. You have mentioned many curious aspects. If we start digging through all this, we will find many interesting things, including the personal barber of a regional leader.

All right, thank you. I would only like to repeat the content of Slide 14. When asked whether officials were helped by their ID cards, 69% replied: “Definitely, yes.” Another 28% replied: “Probably, yes.” And 2% replied: “Probably not.” But no one said this was impossible. This is a good subject.

Thank you for this rather interesting sociological material, which explains a lot. On the whole, many things are clear and obvious. Some other aspects are probably not so obvious. Nevertheless, this is interesting.

All right, who would like to continue?

Mikhail Blinkin (Director of the Transport Economics and Transport Politics Institute at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics): Good afternoon, Mr Medvedev, participants in the meeting. Allow me to show my presentation.

This shows the absolute number of road-accident fatalities during the expansion of motor vehicle traffic in Russia since 1990. A slow decline totaling about 1% annually is the first simple conclusion. And we can also see an obviously fluctuating trend. Vladimir Fyodorov has noted that in some years there was an active decline, followed by an upsurge and another decline. Unfortunately, there has not been a steady decline … As the economists say, this trend is weak and unstable.  

Let’s see the next slide, please. The red arrows denote figures being stipulated by the current federal targeted programme, which has just been finished. And the blue arrows denote actual statistics. By looking on the right side of the picture, we can easily see that we have failed to achieve the planned indicators. And I would like to express a highly important reservation here. As I have insider information on the majority of projects being stipulated by this programme, I can say in the presence of the Prime Minister and other colleagues that the projects have been fulfilled quite meticulously and painstakingly. It would be impossible to say that we have worked badly. We have obtained these results. The programme has been implemented in a more than worthy manner. But please look at the results: We did not even reach the expected results.

Next slide, please. This slide shows Russia’s positions as compared with the rest of the world. There are two fundamental landmarks here. In the mid-20th century, the classics of road-safety science believed that three fatalities per 10,000 cars was a good safety level. When we attain this level, three fatalities per every 10,000 cars, then this would mean we have safe driving levels. Currently, an absolute majority of countries maintain so-called above-zero levels. Virtually all industrial countries fall into the above-zero category. The safest countries, including the United Kingdom and Japan, maintain half of this level. Currently, there are 6.6 fatalities in Russia per every 10,000 cars. This is much more than the best global practices. This is much worse as compared to advanced countries, exceeding their levels 10-12 times over. This is markedly worse than the so-called Risky States group, which includes ten countries that account for 50% of global road accident deaths. This group comprises India, China and a number of African countries, as well as Russia. As compared to these countries, the situation in Russia is more or less favourable. Look, this bar is much higher than ours. But Russia is lagging far behind advanced countries.

Let’s see the next slide, please. It should also be said that we are lagging behind all others in lowering rates, that is to say we are trying to catch up even being in a very modest position. The next slide actually provides the key to all further talk. It shows our transport risks over recent years, including the years in which the programme was implemented and official transport risk forecasts for 2020-2030. Here you can clearly see that efforts in this direction were made and were of very high quality. And this despite the fact that I am having constant discussions with my friends and colleagues from the traffic police. I state this objectively, this is the absolute truth.

But let us also look at the forecasts for 2020-2030. They were drawn up in a professional and honest fashion. Look at them, these forecasts mean that even in 2030 we will not come close to the countries with advanced traffic safety records. That is to say we will be 40 years behind the world's top performers, and even 50 years behind some other countries. What is the reason for this? Is it that we are bungling up our measures – in medicine, engineering, organisation and management? No. It looks highly likely that these issues are due to outdated practices, or outdated approaches, to the outdated paradigm in which we are working, to use a scholarly phrase.

Next slide please. I will now explain what this is all about. All countries that have reached decent levels on road safety… Incidentally, no one is saying that even they are fantastic. The British are in first place in the world in this respect, but they are still saying: this is awful: 300 people are dying on our roads each year, they are saying this is a tragedy. No one describes themselves as good or simply decent. In all these countries, notionally from Australia to Sweden, there is a so-called positive road coalition. What does that mean? It means that we, the overwhelming majority of well-intentioned, competent and fair-minded drivers plus road police officers (green brackets) form a steady informal coalition set against our opponents, the substandard road users, dangerous, aggressive and so on. This coalition is not only described in educational books, anyone who has taken part in road traffic anywhere, in any country knows perfectly well that merely telling a traffic policeman about a dangerous driver is a sacred thing. Because this dangerous driver is set against me, not against the policeman. This is what we call the positive coalition. This phenomenon was identified by institutional economists many years ago. Students are also taught it.

There is also a negative coalition. What is that? It was first identified by British researchers when they were studying road accident rates in Africa. There are ordinary participants in road traffic and there are privileged participants in road traffic (just now a fellow sociologist spoke about how many of them we have in Russia), and there are traffic police officers. These three sections, speaking informally, regard each other as morons. We are keeping up a barbarous practice of flashing our headlights to indicate to our fellow drivers that “there is a traffic cop up ahead”. That simply means: it is not the person who is speeding who is my enemy, my enemy is the traffic inspector. Whenever I tell this story to my foreign colleagues, there is laughter and applause in the audience. This is what the negative coalition is. Unless we give this practice up, our 40 years of lagging behind global standards will, unfortunately … So this is a fair forecast.

Next slide please. What needs to be done to put an end to this? We have a number of key points here. The first is to separate the notions of “aggressive driving” and “careless driving”. Mr Fyodorov described here how complex these things are – and that is the simple truth.

What does “aggressive driving” mean, when translated from any language? It is a threat to the health and life of an indefinite number of individuals, that is to say it is a matter of principle. It is not a mistake, not misguided thinking or carelessness. It is a deliberate threat to health and life. An aggressive driver is not accused of involuntary manslaughter anywhere in the world, he is charged with a traffic violation, which of itself is a threat to the health and life of an indefinite group of people. Books published abroad give an approximate explanation of this: a person fires a rifle from, say, the 22nd floor – he does not even see who is down in the street, he does not mean to kill anyone specifically, but this action represents a threat to the health and life of an indefinite number of individuals. This will have to be separated in law (I understand the legal complexities, but this has to be done all the same).

The next step concerns the orientation of the whole road traffic police … The role of the traffic police is the key factor. So orientation towards what? Towards the protection of the rights and interests of standard, right-minded drivers. This means, firstly, regulating the traffic flow, it means abandoning the practice of stopping cars due to nominal formal pretexts and, secondly, of course, clearly identifying instances of aggressive behaviour. The next point is perhaps one of the main ones – it is the total equality of the rights and responsibilities of road traffic participants. Total! Because we have to realise that in everyday life, in sociological terms and in the foreign experience standards of traffic conduct are set by the elite. If someone feels free to pull out into the oncoming lane, then anybody else may do so. What is most remarkable is that if anyone with a special number plate can engage in driving stunts on Kutuzovsky Avenue, then this is also permissible to a tanker driver out among the boundless steppes outside Taganrog as well. It cannot be otherwise.

Next slide. If we put this in concrete terms, this is what the public is saying and saying truthfully. It means a ban on any flashing lights, or whatever they are … I am factoring out issues connected with the federal law On State Protection because they are a separate issue altogether. It means a ban on escort cars which any wealthy person in this country can hire for a small sum. It is a ban, naturally, on all special passes. The only road document is this one (shows a driver’s licence). The rest is feudal nonsense which we must get rid of tomorrow.

Next point. The full coordination of actions by road traffic officers following an accident. We have a nasty feudal habit of unscrewing number plates in the wake of an accident. This is … Well you understand.

Lastly, the unification of legal practices when examining fatal accidents. Because if we tell the public that there are people who cannot be touched – people who will get off scot-free even if they kill someone on the road – then we will make no progress.

The next point concerns the traffic police directly.

As for traffic policemen, they are mostly young people whose duty is to protect people’s lives and health. There have been some 660,000 traffic fatalities since the time when the number of vehicles started growing rapidly. Traffic policemen are the lords and masters of the road, there is no one above them, neither the prosecutor nor anyone else. When drivers show them their IDs, supposedly giving them special rights on the road, they treat our traffic police, who carry out their difficult duties in freezing temperatures and polluted air, as second-rate citizens. But in fact these people are actually inflicting damage on themselves.

Next, we should free armed and competent young traffic policemen from the role of mere secretaries obliged to fill in numerous forms after a minor accident involving two incompetent drivers. This is an archaic rule… For example, two incompetent drivers call the traffic police even if it was a minor accident in a parking lot that only left tiny scratches on their cars. And an armed police officer has to deal with that minor accident. We should use the foreign experience, where police officers are offered major pension incentives. A Russian-speaking police officer in Israel told a Russian driver who offered him a bribe of 100 shekels, which is around 700 roubles: “Are you crazy? You want me to take your kopecks and lose my pension insurance?” We should provide an incentive in the form of a major remuneration, so that no one would dare tell a police officer to get lost or offer them 100-rouble bribes. This should be our fundamental goal.

Furthermore, we need to establish new institutions. All advanced legislation and research focus on the 3D principle: dangerous, drink and drug driving, where “dangerous” is the key word. For example, we already know that a driver has killed two or six people, yet we are trying to determine whether he was drunk when he did so. His lawyer will try to convince us that his client is a teetotaller, while the prosecutor will argue that he was drunk. He is a killer, yet the argument is focused on drink. I am not protecting drunk drivers. I have radical views on that issue. Dangerous driving is the most important characteristic, the first of the three Ds.

Next slide, please. I will be speaking again about traffic equality. In 1997, President Clinton addressed the nation on the occasion of transportation week, in which he praised an African-American inventor (Garrett A. Morgan, 1877-1963) as the father of the US safe transportation technology programme. In fact, Morgan was one of 50 or 60 inventors of traffic lights, and it was for a different reason that he went down in history. Traffic signals are a trivial piece of equipment that had been used on railways long before then. Morgan wrote in the patent application: “This invention relates to traffic signals, and particularly to those which are adapted to be positioned adjacent the intersection of two or more streets” and is designed to ensure the equality of drivers. So the issue to which the US president’s advisers pointed is traffic equality…

This brings us to the next question. When was the principle of traffic equality introduced and where? There are documents showing that traffic equality became a fact in the Netherlands – Amsterdam – in the first quarter of the 17th century. A bill adopted after the French Revolution (1789-1799) can be loosely translated as a ban on the upper classes driving into lanes of oncoming traffic. The principle of traffic equality was adopted in the majority of European countries in the 19th century or at the beginning of the car era, at the latest. The last European country to adopt it was Spain, for country-specific reasons. But even General Franco ordered officials to stop at red lights.

The most interesting example is India, where the Supreme Court issued a clarification on traffic equality a month ago. When my colleagues sent it to me, its meaning was so clear it was as if it had been written in my native language. A famous Hindu lawyer wrote that the time had come to admit that urban dwellers are the political masters of their country and hence cannot be treated as insects even if they are road users. My thoughts exactly.

And now the last slide, please. The figures here are traffic fatalities, not traffic risks. In absolute numbers for 2020 to 2030, the official forecast is given in light blue; the figures in red show the transport risk level estimated at three fatalities (per 10,000 cars), which was considered very good in the middle of the 20th century. We hope to achieve it by 2020, and further reduce the number of fatalities to one by 2030. The difference between them is huge. Can we do it? I say yes, we can, if we comply with the high organisational, management, medical, technological and engineering standards of the federal agencies. We have built up the right momentum for this. If we keep working and change the institutional aspects, which will be an uphill struggle because old habits die hard, if we do all this, we will succeed. Habits are the most difficult thing to change. We can reach or at least approach modern international standards of road safety. I sincerely hope that we will do it, and this is also the opinion of the Government’s Expert Council, which I represent. We at the Higher School of Economics do not consider this an impossible goal. I believe that we should formulate this goal and then work to achieve it. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Blinkin, it was an interesting contribution. But as usual after an interesting presentation, executives want to know how they should proceed. Do you and the HSE have any concrete proposals on ways of implementing these proposals?

Mikhail Blinkin: There certainly are – they are included in our materials, and I believe that we should start with the simplest things. What was shown in our images and what was said regarding the sociologists’ poll – all these things, related to providing equal opportunities, rights and responsibilities on the road, can be done. There aren’t any complicated legal issues, only political will.

Let me begin by taking out of their context the things that our Indian colleagues called ‘constitutional individuals’, i.e. those specifically mentioned in the Constitution, as they are very few in number. As for the remaining 40%, I once heard someone say at an international conference: “Our deputy prosecutor has more rights on the road than the German Chancellor and King of Sweden together.” We could get do away with this tomorrow – this is not a matter of laws, as there are acts at the governmental level and, which is probably most important, clarification given personally by top officials.

The next thing – more complicated legally, but we can’t avoid this – is the division mentioned by Mr Fyodorov and the division mentioned by our colleagues, sociologists, such as Mr Abramov. This division is similar to that in English law, which is considered a model and is translated into all languages. The English law on road traffic safety clearly distinguishes between aggressive or dangerous driving as a deliberate act against health and life, and reckless driving as a general administrative offence. According to our publicly available data provided by the Federal Service for State Statistics, 75% of the accidents that result in 28,000 deaths annually are caused by actions related to speeding, red lights, and pedestrian crosswalks. If we take the English, German or Canadian classifiers, this all is considered aggressive driving.

When a person drives along Minskaya Street at 200 km per hour, he/she most likely has no murderous intent, but there is a definite intent to inflict harm to health and life, this is obvious. It is hard to do, and even in countries where this practice has existed for dozens of years, with a vast legal experience. You can open any US newspaper and see hundreds of ads concerning experienced lawyers seeking to provide assistance in reckless driving cases. This is difficult, but it has to be done.

Dmitry Medvedev: True. I would only like to clarify something, so that this looks like a certain proposal, and all the more so, as this has been included on the protocol. If I understand you and your colleagues correctly, this definition of reckless driving is considered as a crime with a deliberate form of guilt, correct?

Mikhail Blinkin: Absolutely. Our legal advisers use this phrase (as for me, I have a technical education).

Dmitry Medvedev: I see. Colleagues, please, go ahead.

Anatoly Kucherena (Chairman of the Central Council of the All-Russian Public Movement “Civil Society”): Good afternoon, Mr Medvedev, and everyone present at this very important event. Mr Medvedev, thank you for the attention you are paying to the issue of road traffic safety. I cannot even recall how many meetings you have chaired on these issues. This is certainly a very urgent problem, and it is highly disturbing to receive reports on so many accidents that result in deaths, including the death of children.

I think I will begin with what Mr Blinkin mentioned. A tsar and a god on the road… You know, when analysing all these situations that occur – including the infrastructure and relations between the police and citizens – I make the conclusion that the so-called “control-sanctions-reeducation” set of measures absolutely doesn’t work. On one hand, we see that the Government has allocated enough financing for road construction and infrastructure, but on the other hand, if you think of the things that are happening… Separate lanes are provided for public transport, which seems proper and necessary.

But today, talking to people, we understand that drivers are becoming more and more aggressive because simultaneously bridges are being built and roads are being repaired and all the drivers are forced to use one lane while a whole lane is left for trolleybuses and buses, which I think is inacceptable under the circumstances. If we want to explain the Government’s current policy to the people we should speak more on this topic or else we should complete the infrastructure before tackling all the other issues. That is the first point I want to make, because we often hear drivers complaining about this. We see that these dedicated lanes are clogged up practically every day (we can see it from the video cameras): public transport and motorists all use that lane.  

We talk about a traffic officer and we often get angry and say, “It’s the traffic officer’s fault” or “It’s the cop’s fault.” But on the other hand, let’s look at the status of a police officer in our society. I’ll give you an example. I was in the office of Mr Kiryanov (Viktor Kiryanov, Deputy Minister of the Interior). A policeman in St Petersburg came up to a public prosecutor who had parked his car on a pedestrian crossing and said: “Please move your car, people can’t cross the street,” (the weather was wretched that day). The prosecutor and his wife got out of the car and accosted the policeman and said, “I’ll show you.” After a while he returned, cuffed the policeman and took him to a holding cell and kept him there. Mr Kiryanov says: “This is the situation, I used my official position and I called the Chief Prosecutor of St Petersburg and reported the situation to him, how can that be?” If he works at the Prosecutor’s Office this does not mean that a policeman cannot approach him and make a legitimate demand, we sorted out that situation… in this case, the chief prosecutor stepped in and that policeman was released. But believe me, such situations occur frequently. If we want to have order on our roads, I agree with Mr Blinkin that traffic officers must be the boss regardless of their status and regardless of the status anyone might have and the privileges anyone might enjoy in society. As it is, traffic officers are cowed and afraid. If they see that the offending driver wears a military uniform or carries a corresponding certificate, they are afraid to act.

I would like to say a couple of words about the vigilantism of Ms Lotkova who shot in the back of a man in the metro in the presence of a policeman. I personally looked into this matter. The policeman is at a loss about what to do because on the one hand he is under pressure from one side, and on the other hand he has his professional duty and he is at a loss about what to do. I think the policy pursued today by the Ministry of the Interior, by Mr Kolokoltsev (Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of the Interior) is really aimed at getting that department in order. But society should also be more objective. There are problems with the work of the policeman on duty. We say that on the whole the Ministry of the Interior is not doing a good job. We should stop saying that. If a concrete individual breaks the law then we should talk about that person. If we do this, we may be able to gradually increase the authority of traffic officers who faces these problems every day. This is not to say that everything is fine at the Ministry of the Interior in terms of professional training. There are problems, of course, but we must support the policeman on duty who behaves properly, who behaves impeccably in terms of the law, support must come not only from the ministry but from society.

Of late there has been much talk about plagiarism, hardly a day passes without this subject being raised. I would suggest, Mr Medvedev, that perhaps… there are scientists, Doctors of Science, who have defended dissertations on road safety. Perhaps they should be involved and allowed to prove to us their worth in terms of logistics, mathematics, etc? I think it involves a lot of calculation. Mr Blinkin is somewhat sceptical about it but we must proceed… There are two methods: either some new research or comparative analysis. What we are seeing today here… on the one hand the state is doing a lot to put things in order. Still when it comes to interactions between different structures responsible for road safety, I can say from my own experience, I was present at the Shuvalov commission, I am a member of the Road Safety Commission: it takes nerves of steel for Igor Shuvalov to trace the movement of paperwork from one agency to another.  Lack of coordination, misunderstandings, these things happen, so it seems to me that it should be a two-way street: on the one hand the Government Commission for Road Safety, and there are also the people responsible for this in the regions, but in practice there is an imbalance. It has come to pass that in the Vladimir Region traffic officers have their measuring tape and rulers and they use them to measure the width of the road, the size of the pothole a car hit before causing an accident. Take a very simple case. A car hits a pothole and the result is a fatal traffic accident. The traffic officer tells him: “Park your car over there, we are going to take a statement.” The car moves off, but the pothole remains. Why isn’t it repaired? Because it costs money. All these things combine to create a problem. I think requirements should be toughened up with regard to our road services. There is a lack of cooperation, Mr Medvedev. I have known Mr for six years and he is doing his very best, he knocks on doors at ministries and agencies, but he cannot get things moving because all these things get bogged down at some stage. So perhaps we should go along with Mr Fyodorov who said that perhaps there should be a single law on road traffic that would cover the organisation of traffic, road safety and traffic rules. And that would ensure coordination between the different aspects of our work.

And the last thing, I believe. I would ask Mr Kolokoltsev at the Public Council of the Ministry of the Interior (I was recently elected to this position) to publish annual reports on the state of the road traffic, with photos and videos that show the state of road traffic in our country in general. I have had preliminary talks with some chairs of public councils in the regions and they are ready to support my initiative. Mr Medvedev, we would like you to have information on the public perception of these matters, laws and resolutions are  all very well, but from the viewpoint… Let independent experts in the regions also give their assessment. As Chairman of the Public Council, I am prepared to make such a report at the end of every year.

And the last thing has to do with photo and video recording. Mr Medvedev, truly a lot is being done and many such devices have been installed in Moscow and the Moscow Region.

It’s already four years ago that we had been working in Zvenigorod, Moscow Region, where the first such video speed recording centre was established. We invited the heads of regional executive bodies there and held seminars, but I must say that this is a difficult problem for the Russian regions. Not everybody knows where to get the money and how to get it. Perhaps we should fall back on public-private partnerships. The region does not of course always have the necessary money. We had a preliminary discussion with Mr Vorobyov (Andrei Vorobyov, Acting Governor of the Moscow Region) and he has his own vision, and I think he will say something about it. But I think that matter must be pursued. The money is available. If somebody is ready to finance the work together with the state I think this should be allowed under certain conditions, and this could be a solution to the issue.

And one more thing on the same topic. We sometimes run into conflicts when photo and video equipment is installed and then bidders are invited to operate it but those who win the tenders are unable to service them properly for various reasons – for example, they don’t have the requisite skills or experience. We recently looked into this issue in the Moscow Region. Perhaps it would make sense for those who install these photo and video complexes to be responsible for their uninterrupted work.

Thank you very much. Forgive me for taking too much time.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, a bit too much time.

Colleagues, I urge you to be brief and make concrete proposals. We have not gathered here to look at each other. That is interesting, of course, but… I think Mr Blinkin made the most interesting presentation. He is an unsurpassed reporter in this genre. I would like all the others to concentrate on proposals on legislative improvements or improvements of organisational structure. You are welcome.

Andrei Vorobyov: I’ll try to be brief because Mr Kucherena took too much time.

Dmitry Medvedev: He hogged your time.

Andrei Vorobyov: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: But he is a rookie chief of the Ministry’s Public Council.

Andrei Vorobyov: Mr Medvedev, thank you for initiating this discussion of a pressing topic. Obviously for the heads of regions, the topic of road safety is a priority, both as a fact of life and in light of the presidential executive order. As you well know there are seven million people and three million cars in the Moscow Region. The figure of three million cars is less well known and it is still less well known that every year 140,000 new cars appear in the region. You said quite rightly that we have not yet reached the European level, and it looks as if our citizens will go on buying more cars, and so we will have to keep building more roads.

If you look at the dynamics in 2012, the Moscow Region has made a good enough showing. We would be glad to maintain the same figures in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The rate of road accidents dropped by 10% and the death rate by 7.5%. But Mr Blinkin is right: it is still a very high level. How high? Twenty-four people per 100,000, but our goal is 10. Using the calculation method that you referred to it is three per 10,000 cars, yes? So, to fulfil the President’s executive order we must cut that rate by half. What is being done? In 2012, 264 million roubles were allocated and this year we are allocating one billion for the full range of measures in the Moscow Region.

Experience shows that the first thing to do is to fix pedestrian crossings. I think that the report by Mr Nilov (Viktor Nilov, Chief of the Interior Ministry’s Road Safety Main Directorate) – I have already heard this report at the trilateral commission and it stresses the importance of setting up pedestrian crossings. That task costs significant amounts of money, but the effect is terrific. For example, in Noginsk we had a stretch of road where three or four fatal accidents happened every year. We set up barriers and they dropped to zero. In Elektrostal there were 15 traffic accidents but after we installed barriers and the right road signs that are visible from a distance, the accident rate fell 15 times.

Pedestrian crossings are a priority, another priority is photo and video speed traps, something Mr Kucherena spoke about, and that is also a very effective and important way to ensure road safety. But there is a snag there. We collect 815 million roubles in fines while we impose 1.357 billion roubles. And that is considered to be a good level, about 60%. It means that if we spend one billion, we invest 100% in safety. But more investment is needed in safety if we are to achieve these targets. But the problem is that we are not very good at collecting fines. I have a proposal to make: this is a problem not only for the Moscow Region, but for any other region. We should not just punish motorists for traffic offences, but also have an effective mechanism for collecting fines. I propose that we take another hard look at this format.

The second issue is photo and video speed traps. I understand that specialists will say that some countries have an alternative method of recording violations from two points, point A and point B further down the route. It is effective and not so costly. Tatarstan is staging such a pilot project. I suggest that we do not neglect it and look at how it works so as to spend budget money most rationally. Thank you.

Remark: Mr Medvedev…

Dmitry Medvedev: Well, I was already going to dwell on …

Remark: Mr Medvedev, I would just like to continue on a topic..

Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, there is no room for democracy here. There is only one boss here and that is myself. You all speak when I give you the floor. You will have the floor and then you and so on. I’ll give you the floor, don’t worry. No one will be forgotten.

Pyotr Shkumatov (coordinator of the Blue Buckets Society): Mikhail has taken the words out of my mouth. So I am not going to talk about flashing lights today.

Dmitry Medvedev: It is up to you.

Pyotr Shkumatov: I would like to flag several issues.

First, from what I heard it all boils down to this: let’s punish the motorists for dangerous driving. With speed traps, let’s fine everyone right and left and perhaps even jail some people. But let’s take a look at what is happening on our roads. What was the cause of yesterday’s tragedy involving a bus in which children died? It happened because a car was passing a slow-moving bus. That is my opinion. I have seen millions of such situations. I myself was in similar situations perhaps half a dozen times when I passed cars. I was lucky, but it was a close shave. Why did this happen? Perhaps a police officer broke the rules, but generally it is because the road is not wide enough to accommodate, for example, three cars. There is no road shoulder from the photographs that I have seen, and in fact I have driven on that road and it hardly has room for two cars. And judging from the road marking it is very difficult to pass cars. We have at long last to acknowledge the truth and say that the standards that determine the width of the paved part of the road are generally outdated and in themselves pose a danger, because if such a situation arises… even if it involves breaking the rules, we still have to get to our destination. Yes, afterwards we may hand down punishments: impose fines, put people in jail or publicly “lynch” them, but the main thing is to have infrastructure that prevents violations. The accident on Minskaya Street is another example. A drunk driver drove into a bus stop and killed people. Look at the tragedy that occurred in Dnepropetrovsk which was recorded by two video cameras. There were no drunk drivers, there was just an accident in which a car drove into a bus stop at an angle, just at an angle, killing five people. The main point is that the regulations on passive safety, especially in cities, are outdated and do not correspond to the current situation, but our proposals are not heeded. It’s absurd.

The third part – Mr Vorobyov has actually touched on this – is pedestrian crossings. I know, for example, the pedestrian crossing on Leninsky Prospekt opposite Lyapunova Street: I was writing my thesis and I frequently crossed the street there. Several people from the Institute of Genetic Biology where I had worked for a little over a year died on that pedestrian crossing. Why? The crossing is on Leninsky Prospekt where cars speed. Yes, the official speed limit is 60 kmh, but let us face it, cars often drive at 100 kmh. And when a driver hits a pedestrian on that crossing (obviously this is a fatal case) and there are several such incidents every month, everybody naturally blames the driver for dangerous driving whether or not alcohol was involved. But this is not the root of the problem. The problem is that there is an unregulated pedestrian crossing on what is essentially a 10-lane road. I think the regulatory acts (you have asked for concrete proposals, Mr Medvedev), the GOST national standards must forbid unregulated pedestrian crossings on roads with six lanes or more. Unregulated pedestrian crossings should be allowed only on roads with two lanes in each direction. On all the other roads it is necessary to quickly build either flyovers or underpasses or to install traffic lights. Yes, traffic lights may create traffic jams but I think a traffic jam is better than to often have dead and wounded people.

Now for pedestrian crossings. Our street-level pedestrian crossings are no different from crossing the street in any part of the road. The pedestrian does not care whether he uses the zebra crossing or not, because… The driver though sees the zebra and that is all.

Viktor Nilov I think will confirm that where speed bumps (basically pieces of plastic) have been installed there are no fatalities (1,000 pedestrians out of the total 5,000 who die every year die on pedestrian crossings), at worst, pedestrians sustain injuries. So it is necessary to introduce speed bumps as a mandatory element of unregulated pedestrian crossings. In fact, violation of rules is always a consequence, while the primary cause is the extent to which the infrastructure permits violation of the rules.

Speaking about speed traps. You all pin great hopes on installing a huge number of cameras, and indeed I myself have advocated fining drivers on the basis of photo and video data taken by ordinary citizens. But the situation has now reversed. They have overdone it and in Moscow the system is bursting at the seams because the recent initiatives aimed at increasing the number of fines (making punishment inevitable) for parking offences has resulted in 70% of people (these are my own data, not VTsIOM’s, but anyway) saying that they would now drive without license plates or smear the license plates with mud or rub out certain letters and so on. Fines must be fair. If it is a fine for speeding… for example I am driving and there is a KRIS or Strelka speed camera and it fines me for speeding. Yes, I have committed an offence and I have paid for it. No problem. At the same time Moscow has a long-standing problem: for 20 years nothing has been done, the parking infrastructure has not been developed while the number of vehicles has increased almost tenfold. As a result we are now told: guys, you are not wanted, there are 3 million of you, and you are not wanted, we will try to get you off the roads by installing photo and video cameras. That discredits the system of photo and video recordings. Moscow has never had so many vehicles with transit license plates, dirty license plates, Lithuanian license numbers and all the other things that were not there even when they installed Strelkas everywhere. The latest initiatives adopted by the Land Use Committee and amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences are mind-boggling. I think they are extremely dangerous and could have dire consequences. They will result in speeding, which accounts for half of the deaths on our roads and which has never been a controversial issue… that is, they put up a Strelka and people started to slow down and stopped speeding. Now people have realised that they can smudge one number on their license plate and things will be back to square one. The point of no return is approaching and it is having a dramatic impact on safety, above all in the cities. As for the issue of a positive coalition or a negative coalition that was discussed today you can clearly see that the positive coalition of people in favour of compliance with traffic rules, which had been building up for years, is beginning to fall apart, internal squabbles have started and it is beginning to split into groups because of the very short-sighted and tough actions being taken in Moscow, and this brings me back to the issue of parking spaces and public transport lanes. At the same time the negative coalition is more united than ever because people who now drive in public transport lanes after sticking a piece of chewing gum on their license plates and park their cars and then remove the license plate and go away are seen by society, by the majority of society not as offenders but as people expressing their social protest in this way. This is very dangerous trend and the net result will be substantially less safety on our roads. The format of this event prevents me from saying everything I wanted to, but it is important to understand that the methods that are being proposed here have their limitations, their nuances in terms of  enforcement and these boundaries must be seen and must not be crossed. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Irina Yarovaya, please, and then…

Irina Yarovaya (Chairperson of the State Duma Security and Anti-Corruption Committee): Thank you, Mr Medvedev. Esteemed colleagues, I don’t think anybody would challenge the fact that modern standards of safety in terms of organisation and technical support are needed. I believe that the Federal Targeted Programme is the right vehicle for that. However, many speakers have rightly mentioned dangerous driving. One important figure that has not yet been cited here shows that people themselves, 97% of the residents of St. Petersburg (unprecedented statistics) said that the number one threat to their lives comes from drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Therefore, I have three specific proposals concerning additional actions, not to repeat what has already been said.

Early prevention. Early prevention is one of the key issues which is always important, that’s when we do not discuss the consequences but avert these consequences. We have prepared draft legislation which has been backed by the Government. It has to do with drug tests because we have hardly made a dent in this problem, but on the whole the number of crimes committed by people who are high on drugs has increased to 25%. These are above all young people. So this is my proposal: the decisions that will be taken today should contain additional instructions to the relevant ministries to update the enabling regulatory acts concerning these tests and concerning not only the tests, but providing assistance.

The second issue that has come in for some lively discussion here is promoting mutual respect on the road. Even the examples that have been cited here, there is promotion of the ways to avoid punishment, but cars are not seen as dangerous weapons. Drivers take it lightly, not realising that breaking traffic rules amounts to breaking the law and violating public safety rules. We have discussed in detail issues of public advertising, but we have another serious problem, Mr Medvedev, that needs to be addressed by the lawmakers. We have no requirements at present on the content of social advertising and occasionally social advertising includes false information.

We have looked into this matter together with the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service and we believe it is necessary to amend the law, understanding that money will be spent under the FTP and the regions are also spending money on social advertising and it must be thorough and accurate.

Another proposal is connected with various coalitions. We have prepared and submitted a draft law on citizens’ participation in maintaining public order. We believe additional procedures can be introduced to encourage citizens to get involved, including in road safety. We are prepared, not only through this legislative initiative, but also acting jointly with public organisations, to strengthen the positive coalition that will contribute to road safety.

All three proposals can be implemented in the short term without particular extra cost, because when we say that major additional investment is needed nobody challenges that and I think will never challenge it: we have to develop the infrastructure, build new roads and pedestrian crossings. That is of course necessary, but even in the short term we should do what can be done without major additional outlays.

Anton Kukhovarenko (Director of Avtodoria): Mr Medvedev, colleagues. Thank you for giving me the floor. I am Anton Kukhovarenko, I represent the company Avtodoria, we are a resident of the Skolkovo Centre and we have developed an innovative system to prevent speeding on the roads. We presented our system to you at the Kazan IT Park.

Some scary figures have been mentioned here which show that 44% of deaths are due to speeding and two-thirds of deaths occur on roads in the countryside . In fact the chances of dying as a result of speeding are five times greater than being run over by a drunk driver. To reverse the appalling statistics of deaths on the roads we must bring home to drivers that speeding is unacceptable. At present the technology we have only controls speed. As Pyotr Shkumatov said, when Strelka speed traps were installed drivers started braking in front of the speed cameras, but elsewhere on the road they still break the speed limit. There is considerable international experience that says that every speed can be controlled on long stretches of road. We have developed Russian technology which tracks a vehicle at point A with the help of GLONASS...

Dmitry Medvedev: I'm sorry, I just want to understand: does it monitor the average speed or does it monitor the speed on each specific stretch of road?

Anton Kukhovarenko: It monitors average speed. With the help of GLONASS we record a vehicle at various points on the road. It passes Point A and it gets photographed, it passes Point B and it gets photographed again. We divide the exact distance by the exact time and get the average speed on that stretch of road. In that case it makes no sense to brake in front of the radar traps, it is important to observe the speed limit throughout the journey. Some argue that drivers would speed up and then brake. But it is a hassle to have to think where to brake and where to speed up. At a certain point a driver’s behaviour pattern may simply change: “It’s better to observe the speed limit. I don’t want extra fines”.

Our system has been certified by Rosstandart, we have Russian and international patents. We have significantly reduced the cost of the system. We are ready for a public-private partnership. We are already investing our own money and borrowing money, and we are installing our systems in the Moscow Region, in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Our system has been operating in pilot mode in Tatarstan for more than a year. And I can cite the striking example of the village of Sokury, through which a federal highway passes, which saw people die in road accidents every year. Our system was installed there in 2012 and there wasn’t a single fatality during 2012.

As I said, we are expanding. A pilot project is in the pipeline in the Moscow Region and in Bashkortostan. The State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate has been very helpful, it has issued a letter saying that the system can be used to impose fines because average speeds can never be higher than instantaneous speeds, that is, if you have broken the average speed limit there is no doubt that you are an offender. But in the regions they are still reluctant to impose such fines because they are afraid of court disputes.

Dmitry Medvedev: What are they afraid of if the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate has provided its explanation.

Remark: That is not enough.

Anton Kukhovarenko: Yes.

Andrei Vorobyov: Yes, explanations have been provided but no final clarification. There are not enough clarifications for a tender to be announced. We would like to get more clarifications.    

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, give it a try. That’s interesting.

Anton Kukhovarenko: There is an urgent need for your instruction so that the term “average speed” is enshrined in legislation and that calls for corresponding amendments. Let us do this before the start of the summer “racing” season. Perhaps during the spring session.

Dmitry Medvedev: You think it hasn’t started yet?

Anton Kukhovarenko: People say that there is still snow, it will start once the snow is gone.

Dmitry Medvedev: It depends. In some regions the snow is gone. As for issuing an instruction, I have made a note of it.

Alexander Shumsky (senior expert with the Probok.net centre): My name is Alexander Shumsky from the Probok.net Project. Show the presentation please.

The driving environment and infrastructure errors that sometimes force drivers to break the rules are very important. Next slide.

In the space of 18 months we have accomplished a great deal, In Moscow because when we last met I showed you several road paradoxes and incongruities.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I remember.

Alexander Shumsky: Look at the outcome. For example, a highway was repaired, budget money was invested, but one thing was overlooked: one of the biggest causes of accidents was drivers who tried to bypass it on the right and drove into this fence. Now (next slide) the situation has been rectified.

Next, the inefficient use of infrastructure, now there is a driveway, it took us a year and a half, we will now lay a normal surface and drivers will be very grateful.

Next. For perhaps 15 years a whole bridge, a flyover, had been closed on the Moscow Ring Road and no one could reopen it. We were battling with the previous Moscow  Region administration to have it reopened. Now (next slide) it has been opened, a bridge over the Moscow Ring Road which had been closed for entirely subjective reasons.

These rails which somebody forgot to remove make people brake and turn into the opposite lane and run people over. There were no pavements there, now the situation has been remedied.

Next. They didn’t know how to regulate this level crossing and chose to close it altogether. Drivers suffered a lot, they had to make a detour and they got very angry about it. Next. The situation has of course been rectified. A mistake occurred in 2007 when a new 2 billion rouble interchange was built and they forgot to build a U-turn. After we stepped in it took a long time to correct that mistake. But as a result we saved 900 km of unnecessary mileage a day. Next. All in all, we saved 200 km of unnecessary mileage for the city’s drivers. This improves the environment.

What should Moscow streets look like? This is one of our proposals. Pyatnitskaya Street is inconvenient both for pedestrians and for drivers. It is wide, the crossings are long and the lighting is poor. Now it should look like this. The capacity has not been reduced, it carries two lanes of traffic. We have marked parking places to save drivers the trouble of deciding whether they have parked 10 or 5 metres from the road sign and so on. Creating cycling infrastructure (this is the only way to go about it) and planting more greenery. We are shortening the pedestrian crossing and making it more predictable. Traffic: you don’t even have to set speed limits or set up speed traps, cars will drive on neat narrow streets. That makes all the difference. We are doing it in Moscow.  Mayor Sobyanin has allocated 2 billion roubles in response to the proposals from residents that we have been receiving.

Next. One proposal that we have been discussing with the road safety authorities and which is very important for the environment is allowing right turns on a red light, which many countries have (Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania all our neighbours).  Not everywhere by default, but by putting up a sign on the traffic light allowing a turn. The priority, of course, is intersections where there are no pedestrian crossings and then we can move on to other places.

Next. What we have been doing is the hands-on work that needs to be done, and another thing is our initiative concerning right turns on red lights. It would be useful to think about the initiative of traffic in crowded city centre areas: setting a speed limit of 50 km/h , which does not reduce traffic capacity but greatly improves safety. And allow me to remind you, Mr Medvedev, that we have agreed that I will show you some of the paradoxes live. That is all.

Dmitry Medvedev: A good idea. It’s a shame I didn’t follow up on it. Thank you for reminding me.

What do our distinguished colleagues from the Interior Ministry think about allowing right turns on red lights?

Viktor Nilov (Chief of the Road Safety Directorate, Ministry of Internal Affairs): Thank you. Alexander and I managed to discuss this topic today. We have found a compromise which will solve the issue and maintain order on the roads. What is the gist of the problem? He just said that the scheme works best where there are no pedestrian crossings.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes.

Viktor Nilov: Another point that has caused some controversy. Under the current rules, the right-hand arrow is on the bottom light and we have argued that there is no difference whether it is at the top or at the bottom. He argued that this entails extra cost. That’s his main argument. The other argument was that today the system is so structured that it takes a year or a year and a half to implement the proposal to introduce the arrow. This idea takes less time, so it can be implemented sooner. So, we have achieved a compromise and I think we will come up with a solution soon.

Dmitry Medvedev: Very well, that is a practical outcome …

Andrey Vorobyov: May I?

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, please.

Andrey Vorobyov: Just a couple of words regarding right-hand turns. We have earmarked 38 million roubles.

Dmitry Medvedev: For right turns?

Vorobyov: Yes, for 23 right turns …

Dmitry Medvedev: Not in the political sense.

Vorobyov: No, no. No politics, just a convenience for residents. Because somewhere there should be just a signal arm, and somewhere else a lock should be constructed, you know all that.

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s good of the Governor, for being interested in this.

Colleagues, if you have something that must be voiced today, I am ready to give a couple of minutes to those present here, and then we'll wrap it up. Then, Mr Kolokoltsev, if you wish, I shall give you the floor.

Andrei Leontyev: (general producer, LAV Productions): I would like to say something to follow up on what Mr Blinkin was speaking about. My name is Andrei Leontyev, I am a TV journalist, I’ve been with auto TV for 21 years. I think the problem is not a feudal one but primordial – it is offensive behaviour and ignorance that reign, unfortunately, in the minds of our drivers. We can criticise the Traffic Safety Inspection to no end, but a complete illiteracy on the part of the person behind the steering wheel of the murderous and saving possibilities of his car has led to horrendous consequences. 

Here is a simple example. A person drives out on summer tyres on a freezing day, there is no ice or snow but the summer tires do not work below four degrees Celsius, and at 40 km per hour he is unable to handle the curve that he used to take at 60 km per hour all summer long, and crashes into a bus stop.

And a second example. Someone says “I am a careful driver, I only have to drive one kilometre to the school, and 40 km per hour is the speed limit, so my child does not need a car seat.” In headlong collision at 40 kilometres per hour, the combined speed of 80 km/h is deadly. If you put 10 chairs one on top of another, and the child falls off the top one, it would be equivalent to a collision at 15 km/h. Are there any parents out there who do not panic when their child falls off just a single chair?

The third point. Yet another example: “I didn’t fasten my seat belt, why should I? My car has got airbags!” Airbags kill people who are not wearing their seat belts in four cases out of 100, in 30 cases an airbag breaks the nose, and if a person is wearing glasses, the gravity of the consequences doubles. I can give a hundred more examples – people should be told that the accelerator pedal is not meant to be pressed into the floor, but rather for reasonable use it in accordance with your car's specific features. Unfortunately, this knowledge is given neither by the driving instructor, who is preoccupied only with whether the learner passes the driving test, nor driving schools, because their only goal is for their students to pass the test. This knowledge is given neither in primary nor in secondary schools, which is why people are simply unaware of this knowledge. Unfortunately, the State Traffic Safety Inspection does not provide this knowledge either.

In 2004 we conducted a joint project with French police on simulators. The introduction of simple simulators that identify the response time to braking speed in fog or in the rain allows for identifying the preparedness of that particular individual. These simulators may be expensive, but they are necessary, because they save lives.

Unfortunately, nobody speaks about this in our country. That is why no driving instructor, no school takes a leaner to drive in a traffic jam or in bad weather. So a person is unable to survive behind the wheel when he gets his driver’s licence. I have tried to raise this issue more than once throughout my journalistic career. When I was a correspondent, an author, a director, currently I am a producer of shows, I kept on… This is not a top rating topic for the media, for the people who manage and own the media. I am an independent producer, I don’t have my own media outlet. I offer TV channels quality content, yet I keep on facing the same situation.

Until our people understand that non-lethal weapons can kill, until people realise that a car is not just a nice riding tool but also a highly hazardous vehicle that kills, until our heads are a mess, we can patch up our roads, we can reform the State Traffic Safety Inspection, we can adopt any laws, but it is speed that kills.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much. Yes, please.

Natalya Agre (president of the autonomous non-profit organisation Hazard-Free Traffic): In fact, this is an example of how informed the media have become. Many thanks to Andrei and his colleagues as they, I think, are the ones who support this work on ensuring road safety, especially regarding the level of culture. We, as a public organisation have dedicated ourselves to this topic for the past eight years, and we would like to focus on the example of seat belts, because such campaigns yield good results. According to nationwide studies, when we began our work eight years ago, 30% of Russians fastened their seat belts. Currently the situation has changed in Russia: about 80% of drivers now use the seat belts.

We have been accumulating all our efforts this past year to promote the idea of child safety seats among the Russian people. 

We know that the use of child restraints has grown from 23% to 32%, and we have grounds to believe that this trend should continue. Social advertising is far from being the only instrument of producing such results. Raids, the media, the Ministry of Healthcare and the Ministry of Education also contribute to this. Our society has already united to resolve this problem. This year we’ll continue focusing on seat belts, particularly those in passenger seats. We’d like to ask our leaders to set an example. Mr Medvedev, do you wear a seat belt in a passenger seat?

 Dmitry Medvedev: In a passenger seat…

Natalуa Agre: In the back seat, when you are travelling with a driver.

Dmitry Medvedev: I don’t wear a seat belt in the back seat.

Natalуa Agre: You, along with 14% of all passengers. We must make sure everyone has their seat belt on. We’d like to ask you to take the lead.

The main point I’d like to make today is that studying driving ethics, we have realised that we have a huge problem. It has already been mentioned twice today. I’m talking about the problem of education. Residents of the Russian Federation are first taught at home, then at kindergarten and at school. Only after that do they go to a driving school. Today we don’t have a mandatory programme for teaching traffic rules to children. Meanwhile, all countries that were mentioned by Mr Blinkin, and whose traffic safety standard we want to match, have such programmes. I’d be very grateful if you instruct the Ministry of Education and the Expert Council to draft such pre-school and school programmes.

The third point I’d like to make is about driving schools. In the last few months we have met with heads of all driving school guilds and associations. We must work out a programme for them. I have a big request for you – please issue a relevant instruction. The system of training drivers must be fully modernised. Today we…

Remark: For those who teach driving?

Natalуa Agre: And for them as well. I don’t want to go into detail, but please support us on three points – seat belts, social campaigns to change the mentality of all traffic participants and a reform of driving schools. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much.

Roman Dyachkov (Director of the Special Projects Interregional Public Centre for Traffic Safety in Russia): Ladies and gentlemen. Mr Medvedev, thank you very much for this opportunity to speak. In fact, I have only one question. Much was said about the humanitarian aspect of safety. This is great and absolutely correct. It is necessary to deal with this. But traffic safety also has a technical aspect, which was discussed less today. The problem is a quarter of fatal accidents occur because of bad roads, and this is a sad fact. Seven thousand people died because of them last year alone. This statistics should compel the state to revise its current attitude and impose tougher control over the quality of roads made by contractors. If we can monitor the quality of petrol, why can’t we control the quality of roads, which takes a toll of human lives? Petrol kills fewer people than roads.

My second proposal is to draft a programme for installing collision protectors on all federal motorways with more than two lanes in both directions, because lane markers are not even visible on long stretches, and head-on collisions are fatal. If we put up collision protectors, fatal accidents will drop sharply.

My last point is that we have cars of varying quality. There exist many technical ways of making drivers safer. All-wheel drive cars do not have to be as expensive as huge, beautiful jeeps. It is possible to outfit less expensive cars with anti-lock brakes and all-wheel drive. Let’s include this idea in planning our industrial policy.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Kolokoltsev (Minister of the Interior): Mr Medvedev, ladies and gentlemen. First of all I’d like to thank our experts for the very deep analysis they have made. Special thanks to Mr Blinkin, who presented this analysis. As a Minister, I was alarmed by the statement that traditional ways of dealing with this problem have been exhausted. Indeed, in this case we should switch to unconventional ways of resolving it. One way is to remove the inequality of drivers. We are discussing this task in order to enhance traffic safety but we should also consider it as a means of preserving stability in society.

Inequality on the roads is a powerful destabilising factor. I don’t agree with Mr Blinkin that there is no need for legal amendments. It is absolutely necessary to make these amendments, because we have enough categories of citizens who avoid responsibility for traffic violations. They are all listed in the document prepared for this meeting. All these categories of people are released from responsibility in legal acts. If we are going to use unconventional means of resolving this issue, legislative amendments are absolutely necessary. Thank you for your attention.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much, Mr Kolokoltsev. Let me sum up the results. I’m glad the public at large has started to be concerned about this problem, rather than some clever guys, officials and civil activists that must deal with it ex officio. It is a real concern for ordinary people and I think this is a guarantee of our continued movement in a civilised direction.

Everything is subject to change. Note that our current discussion has followed two opposite tracks: what is more important for traffic safety – infrastructure or brains? Those who spoke here chose one of these two options. Some said that our roads are lousy and advised that we change standards and increase responsibility. Others said that drivers have no ethics or driving skills; they drink and drive and they are the entire problem, rather than obsolete standards, bad surfaces or cars without ABS. Both options are well-grounded and it is very important for us to understand that the root of the problem is in both. I have looked at the figures that Mr Abramov cited. They precisely reflect the causes of traffic accidents. I’m not talking about percentages, but simply about the reasons: no respect for ethics, privileges for VIP drivers, ineffective traffic organisation and non-compliance with the existing technological standards, and what we like to talk about – a lack of tough sanctions. I think that all these reasons put together are creating problems on the roads.

Now I’d like to comment on what has been said here. I won’t name the majority of speakers. I think you’ll understand yourselves what I’m talking about. I don’t object to the introduction of new provisions to the administrative and criminal codes, including those that envisage responsibility for certain actions. Let’s discuss this. If this is effective, let’s try to follow this road. But we do understand that not everything can be resolved with sanctions. As for the new version of traffic and other laws, let’s draft them if prerequisites for them have already emerged. The Government will support this.

Now about what we need. Mr Blinkin gave an interesting report. I will take up some of his points that at least appealed to me.

Mr Kolokoltsev was absolutely right when he said that the old methods do not work any longer – it is necessary to establish order. For this subject to become a unifying one, we need these coalitions. I, incidentally, see nothing bad about them. I want to say bluntly that I like the positive coalition against lawbreakers more than the negative one against officials, traffic police officers or something else because more often than not these coalitions are just a way of committing collective violations.

We should not forget about this, the things we are concerned with are not trifling matters. Any behaviour can be justified but if this behaviour is against the law, those who conduct themselves in such a way should be held responsible.

What made me remember this positive coalition? I am going to describe to you my own experience. In the 1990s, my colleagues and I were driving in a car. I was not at the wheel. We were travelling at great speed across a foreign country. According to our standards, we were going really fast. There was no one else on the road. The road was just splendid, everything is splendid there. Ours was a new and good car of foreign make, and we were enjoying the ride. Fifteen kilometres later, we were stopped. There were no video cameras, no speed traps. Just a couple of cars had passed us in the opposite direction.

What was that? It was an example of the positive coalition. That respectable foreign citizen managed to contact the road police and inform on us. Why? Because he believed we represented a threat to safety. And that really was the case. For understandable reasons such things should unite people and if we are able to create such an attitude to aggressive behaviour on the roads, it might be useful, I think.

I want to say right away that I do not object to the attempt (I am not sure it will be a success) to distinguish between so-called dangerous driving and careless driving, because it is clear that someone who deliberately violates the speed limit has no intention of causing anyone serious bodily damage or, moreover, to kill others, but they do have the intention of grossly violating road traffic rules. Are we supposed to criminalise this offence or not? This is a question to the lawmakers: Ms Yarovaya, please give consideration to this idea. This practice exists in some countries, and it is paying off.

I am not going to lobby for obvious matters. I agree that we should drop feudal nonsense and this hierarchical system on the roads, which moreover isn't justified by anything. It is obvious that these egalitarian principles, as Mr Blinkin so beautifully put it, will sooner or later pay off when applied to the rules of the road. But to do so everything must change – not only officials but also people who drive and enjoy no privileges. This is our common goal.

You mentioned one more thing that we need to do. I asked you specially: you are saying it is necessary to conduct personal dressing-downs. I fear that in a number of cases this will not work. Personal dressing-downs, especially when applied to individuals with perks … Offenders must be disciplined: take 50 or so people and sack them for abusing their benefits, in the direct sense of the word. They need not be punished by bringing them to justice or anything else. They must simply be kicked out. This will help. Their standings should not matter: if you are a prosecutor, then good riddance to you, if you're someone else from the appropriate list, start packing your bags. Not because of an official breach. The person concerned may be a model person, but if they indulge in such practices questions arise. That is at least what was and is being done in other countries. I believe if we show such a series of examples the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens will behave properly on the roads, including those with certain privileges. Because losing perks will cost them more than they stand to gain by committing such offences.

I naturally support all technological advances described here. Let us discuss what is to be done – photo and video capture, fines, equipment for pedestrian crossings and carriageway widening. I do not object to a review of some regulations. We need to understand, however, that we must dictate modern rules, we cannot go against logic and break up the existing system and thus make the use of the roads impossible. But we need to set higher standards both for traffic regulations and the technological equipment of the roads. We need to overhaul the rules.

There was a separate proposal for unregulated pedestrian crossings on expressways with six or more lanes. I want our traffic police colleagues to examine this. In principle it looks perfectly sound because one cannot imagine a normal crossing on such a highway, and the technical aspects require looking into. In general, I am in favour of it if we can find the money. The same applies to speed bumps and everything else voiced here regarding the technical side.

I naturally support all preventive measures and the promotion of road traffic rules, as well as social advertising on the subject.

Now about what our colleague, Mr Kukhovarenko, said. If a prime ministerial directive on the average speed is required, if ministerial instructions are not enough, I am prepared to issue one. But it seems to me, Mr Kolokoltsev, you should let your staff consider the legal aspect of this offence committed over a space of time, or the average speed offence. We should examine its legal side.

I have already spoken about right hand turns. And I certainly support what our colleagues said about media interest. Undoubtedly, the subject is of great importance. And our e-media, not only the internet, should pay more attention to the subject, and not just worry about their ratings.

Now about what you, Ms Agre, said concerning the three points. Let us examine them in detail, as well as fixed rear seats in cars, preschool and school road education, and driving school training. The draft directive contains such proposals.

I fully agree with what was raised at the end regarding the technical aspect. Of course, not everything boils down to drivers’ behaviour, but it adds to what I said.

Colleagues, I want to thank you for your attention to the subject, for the work you are doing. You know that any success is made up of small steps. What Mr Shumsky described here – a small correction here, a small correction there – does not appear eye-catching, but people feel more comfortable as a result. Some regulations and traffic rules have been updated – not a big success legally, it seems – but people feel better. If we continue in this way, I hope in the near future we will join the advanced countries in terms of road safety and driver behaviour. Thank you very much for your participation.

* * *

Before the meeting Dmitry Medvedev inspected a traffic police station in the Moscow Region’s Odintsovo area 

The Prime Minister toured the office of the instructor on duty, the registration department and the exam class.

At the inspector’s office Mr Medvedev was shown the system for monitoring the movement of police vehicles. The computer screen showed an interactive map of the Odintsovo area, which allows the user to track the real-time movement of police crews in the area. A more detailed map, showing the movement of police crews in the Moscow metropolitan area, is available on a separate computer.

The Prime Minister was also shown a tablet PC, which is installed on all patrol vehicles. It allows police officers to download the three largest databases in Russia – the Unified Database of the Russian Federation, the Federal Analytical System of the Traffic Police, and the Picket regional database, which provide them with complete information on a vehicle and driver.

Mr Medvedev was also shown how video cameras capture traffic violations, and the most recent breathalysers, which can test for alcohol even in the air inside a vehicle.