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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Miscreant Drivers Face Stiffer Fines

Trying to beat the traffic by taking a sidewalk shortcut is going to be a lot more expensive for drivers who get caught, as new traffic violations established and higher fines for existing ones come into force at midnight Friday.

This will just be the first stage, as further measures will be introduced on Jan. 1 and July 1, 2008, in an attempt to reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities in a country where road deaths per vehicle are 10 times those in Britain or Germany.

Fines for certain offenses will rise as much as twentyfold. Driving on the sidewalk, for example, used to bring a fine of 100 rubles, or about $4. Starting Saturday, it jumps to 2,000 rubles.

Infractions that will bring fines for the first time include talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving, which will cost drivers 300 rubles, and a 100 ruble fine for making a turn from the wrong lane. Driving on the wrong side of the street brings a maximum penalty of a six-month suspended license.

As of Jan. 1, the fine for running a red light will increase to 700 rubles from the current level of 100 rubles, while breaking the speed limit by more than 60 kilometers per hour will cost offenders 2,500 rubles, or about $100, and can also mean a license suspension of six months. The penalty for driving without a seatbelt will increase to 500 rubles from 100 rubles.

The harshest new measures to come into effect in January will be for drivers refusing to take a blood test when suspected of being drunk while driving with no license or under suspension. This will carry a jail sentence of 15 days.

Pregnant women, mothers of children younger than 14 years old, minors, the handicapped and members of the military are exempt from serving time, and will face a fine of 5,000 rubles, or about $200.

The new measures are being introduced in the face of worsening traffic statistics.

The number of traffic accidents reported over the first eight months of the year was 100,000, a 10 percent increase over the same period in 2006, according to official traffic police statistics. The total number of fatalities was 12,000, with 1,251 of those coming in Moscow. Traffic deaths in the area surrounding Moscow were up 30 percent from last year.

Vyacheslav Lysakov, head of the drivers' rights group Freedom of Choice, said Thursday that raising fines was unlikely to reduce accidents. Instead, he said, better roads and police and officials who follow the rules of the road are needed.

"Last month there were two very serious accidents that were caused by the police," Lysakov said.

"They drive recklessly and use their sirens to pass through red lights and traffic jams," he said.

Lysakov said the biggest effect of the new measures would be an increase in bribes paid to traffic officers.

Traffic police representatives refused to comment Thursday, but a statement posted on their web site Wednesday said tough measures were also being put in place to tackle corruption.

"Those breaking the law will not just be fired, but face more serious consequences," the statement said. "Some have gone to jail."