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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Marshals Stepping Up Hunt for Delinquent Drivers

Honest drivers who opt to pay traffic tickets rather than bribes might want to settle the matter swiftly. After all, waiting too long to pay could mean jail time for even a small infraction.

Authorities have stepped up their hunt for delinquent drivers who don't pay their traffic tickets on time, a spokesman for the Federal Court Marshals Service said Thursday.

The agency's work "has intensified over the past month," and joint operations between traffic police and marshals to track down debtors are being conducted "more regularly," agency spokesman Igor Komissarov said.

By law, drivers have 30 days to pay traffic tickets or risk having the fine doubled or being jailed for up to 15 days -- even for the minor infraction of not wearing a seatbelt, which carries a 300 ruble ($12) fine.

"If we want to restore order on the road, then punishment must be unavoidable," Komissarov said. "We are hoping that as a result we will see more drivers who obey traffic laws."

It is up to a judge to determine the appropriate punishment -- including jail time -- for drivers who fail to pay fines on time, said another spokeswoman for the agency, Nadezhda Maslova.

The crackdown was prompted by the some 9 million drivers nationwide last year who evaded paying traffic fines, Komissarov said, citing official statistics.

He said analogous statistics for this year were not yet available.

As with numerous errands involving government bureaucracy, there is no one-stop way to pay a traffic fine -- a fact that advocacy groups say merely encourages the already rampant bribery that epitomizes drivers' relationship to traffic police.

In order to pay a traffic fine, a money transfer must be made to a bank. Under current law, proof of payment must then be delivered -- in person or by mail -- to traffic police.

Drivers are reluctant to traverse the relatively daunting system of paying fines currently in place, preferring instead to merely to settle things on the spot by paying a bribe, said Vyacheslav Lysakov, head of the Free Choice Motorists' Movement.

"It goes without saying that the more complicated the system of levying fines and filling out documents, the more it encourages drivers to pay bribes," Lysakov said.

A law establishing new traffic violations and higher fines for existing ones came into force last month, and further measures will be introduced on Jan. 1 and July 1 in an attempt to reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities.

One change to be introduced Jan. 1 should help drivers pay fines quicker: They won't be required to provide proof of payment to police.