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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Avenue to Greater Road Safety

Tougher penalties for serious traffic violations are long overdue in a country where 35,000 people are killed on the roads each year. Russia has 10 times more accidents per vehicle than Germany or Britain.

That means it is good news that legislation is finally winding through the State Duma that would significantly increase fines for traffic violations and allow judges to sentence drunk drivers to jail terms. The amendments, which the Duma approved in a first reading Friday and are expected to quickly make their way to President Vladimir Putin's desk for his signature, would increase fines for running a red light from a laughable sum of 100 rubles, about $4, to 1,500 rubles, or $57.

Moreover, the traffic police would be allowed to turn to the courts to have a driver's license suspended for up to four months for serious moving violations. Penalties for not wearing a seatbelt or exceeding the speed limit by 40 kilometers or more would also be toughened.

Most important is the introduction of jail time of up to 15 days for people caught driving drunk after their licenses have been revoked for a first offense.

While the bill must be commended, it is troubling that United Russia, its sponsor, has not included any provisions to ensure that the measures are enforced fairly and in full. These questions are of paramount importance given national realities like the notoriously corrupt traffic police and poor transportation ­infrastructure.

Granted, the tougher rules should help convince drivers to be more careful on the roads. After all, the standard bribe is usually half the size of the official fine.

But giving traffic police officers the opportunity to collect bigger bribes by hiding in bushes to catch speedsters is unlikely to motivate them to focus more fully on their main duty: keeping roads safe.

Some of the proposed amendments open the door to multiple opportunities for abuse, like allowing traffic police officers to send cars they deem unsafe for mechanical safety inspections even if they have valid safety certificates. Only the most honest of the country's traffic police would be able to resist the temptation to threaten to impound the perfectly safe vehicles of drivers rushing to work.

Also, while a Moscow driver is more likely to be able to afford shelling out a bribe, drivers in poorer regions might find it near impossible.

The country's traffic police need to re-focus their energy on making roads safer, not on making its officers richer. Ideally, the traffic police force should be disbanded and a new force ­established with fewer but better-paid and well-monitored professionals.

This would help improve the safety of the country's roads, but a lot more would still need to be done. Authorities need to use some of their large budget revenues to drastically improve the transportation infrastructure, building more roads and making roads safer in general.

Increasing the amount of parking would also improve safety by easing traffic and reducing the time it takes ambulances to reach the sites of accidents.

The difference this could make is substantial. A study by the World Health Organization found that the victims of traffic accidents ­survive in 90 percent of cases where they receive qualified help within nine minutes of an ­accident. But the survival rate percentage plummets to 15 percent if help arrives within 19 minutes.

Increasing traffic fines is a good place to start in decreasing traffic fatalities, but only a comprehensive approach, including ridding the traffic police of corruption, improving roads and providing better training for emergency personnel will pave the way to a significant and sustainable reduction in the numbers of deaths on the country's roads.