Man vs Speed

Man vs Speed

"This is an electronic speed measurement device. It instantaneously records the speed of the vehicle and displays it on a board - the motorist can see it at once. The effect is psychological. The motorist is reminded that he is going too fast and immediately reduces speed".

On one of the most accident-prone streets in Kyiv, chief officer Ivan Prokhorenko deputy chief of the Ukraine National Police prevention department - is demonstrating the device that has just been installed.

"There's an accident on this section of the road every day, causing injuries and very often fatalities. After we installed the device, the average speed on this section fell from 76 to 59 km/h", he says, celebrating a small triumph over speed at the local, municipal level.

This new electronic device is the only one in the Ukrainian capital, which has a population of 5 million. It is a simple device which has a real impact on speed-related accidents. The speeds are displayed in different colours depending on how fast the motorist is going. So if the speed limit has been broken, the figure shows red. If the speed is within normal limits (40-60 km/h), the figure flashes green.

Ivan Prokhorenko was the driving force behind the installation of the speed device: "Routine operations, paperwork, official correspondence and our professional duties are one thing. Working to achieve actual results is another thing entirely. The situation right now in Ukraine is uniquely tragic. We are the only country in the world where you can drive in urban areas at 80 km/h! The official statistics are horrifying - 3187 people died and 32 079 were injured on Ukraine's roads in 2016". Driving at dangerously high speed was the biggest cause of road traffic incidents in 2016, identifiable as the cause in 4667 cases.

 

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There are a few mobile cameras in Ukraine, but they recorded already more than 1 million offences!
(photo by Sergey Valov and Olexander Nechaiuk)

 

There is some legal confusion here because, under modern Ukrainian law, it is impossible to monitor vehicle speeds in Ukraine. The road traffic regulations authorize speeds of 60 km/h in urban areas. But there is also a legal rule dating from Soviet times which authorizes a tolerance of +20 km/h. This rule was established several decades ago, to take account of the errors made by the imperfect measuring devices in use at the time.

In reality, many Ukrainian motorists drive at speeds of between 100 and 120 km/h in the vicinity of residential buildings, hospitals, kindergartens and schools.

 

The police are not entitled to stop them for speeding, as there is no evidence that they have exceeded the limit! The law does not authorize the use of speed-recording cameras for this purpose. Yet the objective of all road safety campaigners is very clear, namely to reduce the speed limit in urban areas to 60 km/h, to be followed by a phased reduction to 50 km/h.In most European cities the current maximum speed limit is 50 km/h but many aim at further reducing it to 30km/h speed limit particularly in crowded city centers and residential areas.

Ivan Prokhorenko is 50, and has been involved in road safety in Ukraine for 27 years. Now, as a senior officer, he is obliged to spend much of his time attending official meetings, although it's being out on the beat that really stimulates him.

He is convinced that campaigns to reduce speed should consist first and foremost of face-to-face conversations between police officers and motorists. Advertising hoardings, short public information films on the Internet and television, and public information posters all have their place, but there is no substitute for an actual conversation with a potential lawbreaker.

At the same time, the police do indeed have modern measurement technology. And they use it, but only for preventive purposes.

 

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Patrol police officer stops a car on the Melnikova Street in Kiev, Ukraine.
(photo by Sergey Valov and Olexander Nechaiuk)

 

"Today our role is not to fine motorists but to persuade them to slow down. Financial penalties are absolutely necessary, but this is only part of the work we do with motorists. Nothing beats dialogue with the offender, i.e. explanations and reminders of how to brake at high speeds and how dangerous it is to drive at more than 50 km/h in a built-up area. Now let's go and measure speeds in central Kyiv" Ivan and his officers are about to go out for a preventive session with drivers in the capital.

The temperature outside is -10 С. Ahead of them lie several hours of speed measurements, stopping vehicles and tense conversations that are nevertheless vital if they are to persuade drivers to slow down. For the rank-and-file traffic officers, the presence an experienced chief officer renowned for his role in instituting road traffic initiatives is a stroke of good fortune. They are able to work together and thereby have more of an impact on the behaviour of thoughtless drivers.

 

"We have a few of these mobile cameras, which we use in test mode. Over a short period of operation in automatic mode, they recorded more than 1 million speeding offences!"

 

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Ivan Prokhorenko at the Centre for speed control. Meeting with the staff. 
(photo by Sergey Valov and Olexander Nechaiuk)

 

After the face-to-face preventive session, Ivan demonstrates another police initiative: a road safety video surveillance centre, which was set up with assistance from Ivan Prokhorenko and his unit. The centre is currently operating on an experimental basis. The photos and videos are being tested in readiness for the enactment of the appropriate legislation. The centre allows the police to track what is happening on the roads in real time, and to identify the licence plates of cars that break the speed limit. The data are processed automatically, but the police nevertheless perform visual inspections, for example in cases where the licence plate is too dirty to read. The centre also compiles statistics on the number of speeding offences.

It is not sufficient only to talk about the danger of driving at high speed; it is also important to set an example. Ivan is an experienced and safe driver of many years'standing: in some months he has covered more than 10 000 behind the wheel! He considers the number of lives saved as a benchmark for his work. He recalls how, on one occasion, he was hurrying to work, when he witnessed a road traffic incident and was able to assist a badly injured driver by pulling him from the mangled wreckage of his car.

A set piece in Ivan Prokhorenko's timetable is preventive work with children. He often visits schools. And he unfailingly drops by hospitals to visit small children involved in road traffic incidents. He says with a smile: When I see kids listening intently about pedestrian crossings and traffic signals, I know they are memorizing the road traffic rules and certainly won’t be breaking them any time soon!"

 


About Andrii Bystrov 

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Andrii Bystrov is an editor at the Ukraine Television Channel. Bystrov started his career in 2006 as a journalist for the car magazine, Test Drive. Following this, he became an editor for Svit TV and then a correspondent for First Automotive TV Channel. Prior to his current position, he was the editor of a morning show titled “Breakfast with 1+1” (1+1 Media).

Andrii Bystrov was nominated IJnet.org Journalist of the month. Bystrov is a journalism lecturer at the S.O.M. School of Media in Kyiv (somedia.com.ua) which he co-founded. Bystrov graduated from the School for Journalists and Media Practitioners at the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom of the European University Institute, Firenze (Italy). He also has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the National Aviation University in Kyiv.

Andrii took part to the road safety journalism fellowships organized by WHO with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies in occasion of the High-Level Conference on Road Safety in Brasilia, Brazil (2015) and the Safety 2016 World Conference in Tampere, Finland (2016).