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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GAI Floats More Fines as Solution to City Gridlock

As Moscow's traffic ground to a halt Thursday in what police described as "one of the worst traffic jams the city has ever seen," the capital's top traffic inspector came up with a radical new solution to the high accident rate and gridlocks: increased fines and more powers to the traffic police.

"The number of traffic hooligans has grown immensely," Nikolai Arkhipin, head of the Moscow division of the State Automobile Inspectorate, or GAI, told Itar-Tass. "People don't fear traffic police anymore."

Arkhipin's scheme is beautiful in its simplicity: Raise fines, and people will obey the law. Because up to 15,000 traffic violations are dealt with every day by the Moscow GAI, said Arkhipin -- with drivers routinely running red lights, driving drunk and driving in lanes for oncoming traffic -- the only solution is to beef up the powers of the official guardians of legality on the roads.

The current system of fines stipulated in the Administrative Code are woefully inadequate, he said, and must be increased in order to be effective.

"Most traffic violations and accidents are misdemeanors, and the current laws are too weak to punish the drivers," agreed Alexander Peshkov, of the GAI's department of propaganda. "We must have tougher laws."

According to Peshkov, 24 percent of all last year's road accidents were caused by drunk driving, 19 percent were the result of speeding and 12 percent were hit-and-run incidents.

Most of the on-the-spot traffic fines in the current code for offenses such as speeding have a ceiling of "half a minimum wage" -- in practice, around 37,000 rubles ($6.78). At least, that's the official rate. Practical experience of driving in Moscow suggests that the "alternative" tariff -- which never finds its way onto the books -- could be somewhat higher than Arkhipin imagines.

GAI press secretary Viktor Tretyakov reacted sheepishly when quizzed on the thorny issue of "unofficial" GAI fines. "This is a very painful question for us," he said. "Our officers issue official receipts for all fines. If they don't, they must be brought to justice. We are working hard to tackle this problem."

Meanwhile, the GAI issued a plea to drivers Thursday "not to go into the center of the city at night except in cases of extreme necessity," after bad weather caused 46 road accidents in 24 hours.

Two people were killed and 54 injured as traffic ground to a halt in several areas of the city center.

This situation could be avoided if people obeyed the law, said Tretyakov.

"They're parasites," snorted Sergei Kiselyov, who has worked as a professional driver in Moscow for 10 years. "Thieves, pure and simple."