Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Traffic Police Corruption

Ukrainian President Yuschchenko disbanded the national traffic police (DAI). The main reason – they are too corrupt and take too many bribes from drivers. Today is the first day of police free traffic extravaganza in Ukraine. For what I know from guys at our Kiev office drivers there are speeding, ignore traffic lights and make U-turns wherever they like. It’s a real festival of disobedience and everyone is happy. Yuschchenko is not original in this matter. About a year ago Georgian President Saakashvili disbanded traffic police and for three months drivers could do whatever they like. The only traffic rule they were strictly obliged to follow was checking every two minutes if their car horns were functioning well.
I believe Russian traffic police is not much different from Ukrainian. In the list of the most corrupt government organizations it is number one. Their greed is legendary and their talent for setting radar traps on highways is unmatched. But if one looks at the problem soberly I would say that the main reason of this type of corruption is absolutely reckless Russian driving. First, Russian policemen don’t stop drivers who don’t break rules of the road. There are too few of them, anyway. Second, policemen rarely ask for a bribe themselves – almost always drivers start bargaining. The reason is fantastically high (by Russian standards) fines. Fines are so high because the government if fighting reckless driving. What is better – to pay a 3000 rubles official fine or a 500 rubles bribe? If a driver is a man of principle it’s ok. Traffic policemen don’t harass such people because they need to hit their daily fines target. Otherwise their chief would think they were just hanging around. Sometimes a traffic policeman would reject a bribe saying, “I’m very sorry but our shift is over in twenty minutes and I’m two speeding tickets behind the plan”. Now it’s very bad news for a Russian driver. Just a few years ago drivers could pay the fine cash right on the spot and get a receipt but the government got on traffic police corruption really hard. Nowadays policemen give tickets and for a driver it means a very long and tedious bureaucratic procedure of paying it through a state-run Sberbank of Russia.
Fighting traffic police corruption is like fighting drug traffic – revenues exceed all possible risks. I believe the only effective way against this kind of corruption is punishing drivers but not policemen. Giving a bribe is a serious felony. About a year ago in the Vladimir region of Russia a driver was sentenced to one year in jail for trying to give a bribe. Actually he was set on probation but his case was several days on national news. The chief of Vladimir anti-corruption squad warned all Vladimir drivers, “Every time you try to bribe a traffic policeman there’s one to twenty chance that you’re bargaining with an anti-corruption squad agent under cover.” The effect was unimaginable! Even when real corrupt policemen tried to harass drivers it was considered a provocation and poor drivers held their ground.



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MARK said...

I was stopped on at least 6 occasions in just 2 days when driving my van across the Ukraine from the Polish border last week - 3 of the officers concerned demanded bribes and none of them would give me their 'name, rank or numbers' when these were demanded of them! I am absolutely certain that these were not fines for any motoring offences which I actually committed because no receipts or other paper records were offered to me either... These people should be sent to labour camps and forced to repair the appalling roads as their punishment for these corrupt acts!

To whom must one complain for this to be stamped out in the Ukraine?!