Drivers Can Drink After July 1

Drivers with alcohol in their bloodstream will soon be allowed to get behind the wheel, as a longstanding zero-tolerance statute passes out of effect.

Under traffic law amendments to come into force July 1, the maximum legal blood-alcohol level for drivers will increase from zero to 0.3 grams per liter of blood, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry's road safety department said Friday.

"The blood alcohol limit is needed for a more objective evaluation of any given situation," the spokesman said.

Currently, police officers can send a seemingly drunk driver to a doctor for testing. Under the new amendments, however, police will be equipped with Breathalyzers and authorized to measure a driver's blood-alcohol level.

The driver will have the right to dispute the results of the Breathalyzer test and request a second examination by a doctor, said Vladimir Kuzin, deputy head of the ministry's road safety department, Kommersant reported Friday.

Critics, however, say the amendment will exacerbate police corruption. Viktor Pokhmelkin, head of the Movement of Russian Motorists, said the amendment will provide police with more opportunities for "arbitrary justice and blackmail."

The amendment, passed last year, also institutes the practice of recording traffic violations via fixed video or photo cameras and sending fines to drivers by mail. The cameras will record the license plates of violators and send the fine by mail to the registered owners of vehicles involved.

"The cameras will help discipline drivers and improve the situation on our roads," the Interior Ministry road safety department spokesman said.

Kuzin told Kommersant that the system would benefit drivers. Currently, a traffic police officer can send a driver to court, which can suspend or revoke his or her license. A driver cannot lose his or her license under the new mail system, Kuzin said.

Pokhmelkin, a former State Duma deputy who voted against the amendments while still in office last year, was critical of the mail-in fines.

Such technology in the hands of traffic police, an organization not known for "competence, honesty or good faith," will be "used for harm rather than for good," Pokhmelkin said.

One local gypsy cap driver said he would rather stay away from any bureaucracy associated with paying traffic fines.

"Sometimes it's easier for a driver to give a traffic cop money right away as opposed to spending more time going somewhere else to pay the fine later," Konstantin Kocheshkov, 37, said Friday.