The Lawyer

The Lawyer

“40 km/hour is a safe speed when driving through rural communities and small villages. We have put this speed into the new bill before Parliament. Until now, Ukrainian traffic law has contained no such provision. If the law passes, the main issue of speed will be addressed.” Vladimir Karavaev is explaining key points.

He is an experienced lawyer and is well known in Ukraine. He is working in the area of road traffic law. Over the past 4 years he has been focusing on a comprehensive legal instrument - parliamentary bill No. 5184 on road traffic safety. The bill is now ready to be debated by the Parliament of Ukraine. Vladimir Karavaev is the coordinator and one of the key drafters of the text which will underpin the new Highway Code.

While working on the instrument, the drafters received hundreds of ideas and proposals about how to regulate road traffic in Ukraine. As the coordinator, he received all this information, analysed it and drafted the text of the future statute.

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Vladimir Karavaev on the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine.

“Right now in Ukraine we are really focusing on the question of speed limits. And we will frame all legislative proposals on the basis of the actual situation. The actual speed limit is directly determined by the state of the road infrastructure, i.e. the quality of the road surface, signs, safety barriers, lighting and road markings. It’s not a simple problem by any means,”  Vladimir says.

The principal difference between traffic conditions in Ukraine and European countries is that in Europe the infrastructure was upgraded as the number of vehicles on the road increased. But in Ukraine the roads have not been improved for several decades now.

“In this bill we are proposing to keep a speed limit of 60 km/hour in populated areas, but no higher than this! We propose to set this speed restriction on multilane highways within city limits, where there is a central divider or barrier and no pedestrian level crossings. Where there is a central divider or safety barrier, the limit in built-up areas won’t be 80 or 90 km/hour.  It will be 60.” says Karavaev, explaining the legal thinking behind the decision.

At the moment Ukraine is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for road users.

 

The national road traffic incident statistics are frightening. Since independence, more than 169 000 people have died on Ukraine’s roads. One in three deaths is a child.

 

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Vladimir Karavaev taking to the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine.


“On residential access roads and roads near schools and kindergartens, the speed limit should not exceed 20 km/hourbecause a child could run on to the road at any time,” Vladimir says.

The extremely high number of accidents in Ukraine and the enormous number of deaths have prompted national lawmakers to think about completely overhauling Ukraine’s outdated legislation. Because there has been no change for several decades; the sole amendments have been minor, piecemeal or ad hoc in nature. But the harsh reality of the situation on the roads means that the highway code needs to be completely redrafted. The number of vehicles has increased, the average speed has gone up, as has the population of urban areas, but road traffic law has stood still. A top-to-bottom review is in order.

The principal reason for the disastrous road safety situation in Ukraine is the dearth of legislation to address the problems that currently exist, as listed by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport on 26 April 2002.

The first is that motorists simply do not respect traffic rules; the second is that motorists do not respect the rules because they are contradictory and confusing. 


Another problem is the ineffectiveness of the national administrative and control apparatus.

“The bill is as close as possible to European standards and takes account of the actual situation on the roads.  Everything is based on EU directives and best practice in other countries. The main thing is that the law includes specific requirements for each category of road user,” Vladimir explains.

“Under current rules, motorists are allowed to exceed the speed limit by 20 km/hour when overtaking only.  This point has generated lots of discussion.” Karavaev says.

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Vladimir Karavaev on the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine.


At the moment, the introduction of speed cameras is one of the challenges in terms of increasing safety on Ukraine’s roads.

The plain fact is that, in countries which have installed speed cameras, the number of accidents has fallen by 30%. Automatically!


This is what has happened in every European country, and the same thing will happen in Ukraine – when the system is fully rolled out. Right now we need to establish a legal basis for this system to function properly, from recording the offence to issuing notifications and demands for payment of fines.

“Unfortunately, we are starting from scratch. There have already been attempts to introduce speed cameras in Ukraine. But in 2010 the Constitutional Court ruled automatic speed cameras illegal because they violated article 61 of the Constitution.  So in recent years, despite a number of initiatives and reforms, the system has not worked. The underlying legal principle is this: if you drive faster than the speed limit, you must answer for the consequences."

All these aspects are reflected in the new road traffic safety bill:  together with my co-drafters I have incorporated all the provisions for the introduction of speed cameras.  It’s taken us 4 years!  This statute gives the green light to speed cameras.  If lawmakers support it, speed cameras will be installed in the very near future.  If bill No. 5184 is adopted, within six months the entire legal framework will be adapted accordingly, for example the necessary regulations and measurement standards applicable to speed cameras. After this the cameras can be installed by investors. This will take another six months.  And in about a year’s time the system will be up and running.

For Vladimir Karavaev, reducing the number of accidents is a personal challenge too. A few years ago his eldest daughter was involved in a serious road traffic incident.

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Vladimir Karavaev on the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine.


“Of course, I had taught her many things about road traffic safety. But I had forgotten to tell her one thing which my father once said to me. The most dangerous moment of all is when you are approaching an intersection at night  and the orange traffic signal is flashing. You think you are alone, but the danger is that another vehicle might be there too. This often gives rise to serious accidents.  Unfortunately, at the intersection where she had the crash, the priority signs were obscured by advertising displays,”  Vladimir Karavaev recalls.

"As a legal professional, in drafting legislation I try to envision all possible situations that could save the lives of drivers and pedestrians in Ukraine”.


“I am firmly convinced that the role of pedestrians in road traffic situations is just as important as that of drivers. Pedestrians always need to be attentive and cautious – even when using a pedestrian crossing displaying a green light. I frequently remind my children and my family of this – it could save their life! And as a legal professional, in drafting legislation I try to envision all possible situations that could save the lives of drivers and pedestrians in Ukraine”.


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).