News

Horrific crash forces Russian road safety rethink

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | 10:32 AM    

Print this page Email A Friend!


MOSCOW, Russia (AP) — It took a weekend road tragedy to jolt Russia into action over one of its most deadly threats: a chronic culture of drunken driving.

Five orphaned teens were waiting for a bus with their guardians in Moscow on Saturday when a car careened into them, killing all seven. Grief turned to outrage when it emerged that the driver was heavily drunk and had a string of traffic violations on his record — including a DUI arrest two years ago.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and lawmakers have reacted with proposals to stiffen penalties on drunken drivers, and parliament debated the measures on Tuesday. But with bribery so commonplace and road laws rarely enforced, many wonder whether even the toughest response can change a deep-set culture of reckless driving.

After the crash, Alexander Maximov stumbled out of his Toyota sedan, which he had been driving at 200 kilometres (125 miles per hour), bloodied and barely able to stand. He appeared in court Monday with his head wounds dressed, but still wearing the blood-speckled sweatshirt from the day of the accident.

The punishment for killing while drunk driving in Russia is stiff: The 30-year-old Maximov faces up to nine years in prison. But lawmakers are currently debating whether to make jail sentences even harsher, matching laws in the West.

Even President Vladimir Putin weighed in Tuesday, demanding tougher punishments, condemning Maximov’s apparent blithe indifference after the crash.

“This criminal, he’s a killer in fact, when speaking to investigators just said: ‘I always do what I want,”’ Putin said. “There are some things for which people just must be punished.”

Many Russians are furious that drivers like Maximov, who already had a DUI penalty on his licence from 2010, was allowed back onto the roads in the first place. Drunken driving is punishable in Russia by suspension of the driver’s license for up to two years. In much of the West, by comparison, drunken driving is punished with jail time, heavy fines and re-education courses.

It isn’t only irresponsible drinking that makes Russia’s roads dangerous.

Russia’s cities are struggling with fast-growing traffic density, which spurs drivers into pulling crazy stunts to get home as early as possible, such as jumping lights, squeezing through every gap in traffic and opportunistic trailing of racing ambulances.

According to a 2007 survey, the number of cars on Moscow’s roads had increased threefold since the early 1990s, while road capacity has increased by only 30 per cent.

Each year, approximately 30,000 Russians die in road accidents — about the same as in the European Union, which has three times as many people and about six times as many cars as Russia. According to official statistics, only about 1,000 of those deaths are attributable to death by drunken drivers, but given the laxity of police enforcement and investigation, many in Russia doubt those figures.

ADVERTISEMENT

POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

 

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper – email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

Did the NWC prepare adequately for the current drought?
Yes
No


View Results »


ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT