Penalty points for violations of traffic rules: CEDEM held a panel discussion as part of the ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign

May 8, 2023

Speeding remains the main problem of Ukrainian road traffic. This is evidenced both by patrol police data and international studies and expert observations. Drivers exceeding the speed limit cause accidents, and if there is an emergency situation on the road, they have less chance to react to it in time.

The ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign has been working on this problem since 2016, and in that time it has become clear that the situation will not change without an effective system of sanctions, even with infrastructure improvements and educational campaigns.

Therefore, on May 4, 2023, the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law within the ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign held an expert discussion “Prospects for the introduction of a penalty points system for traffic violations in Ukraine”. The participants were representatives of NGOs, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the National Police and authorities. Those present had the opportunity to discuss proposals and share their own vision of changes in the field of traffic safety.

“This is not a presentation of some ready-made draft law, but rather an early event to hear opinions and chart the way for the next period of time, in which we will move towards the introduction of penalty points,” said Viktor Zahreba, project manager of the ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign, an expert on road safety. 

This is the format that the Campaign participants consider the best. They have studied the theory and practice of sanctions for traffic offenders in European countries (see the study results in the analytical report here). One of the conclusions is that Ukraine lacks a system of penalty points. Most drivers are not systemic offenders, and their offenses are often random and minor. However, there is a ‘dangerous minority’ – self-confident aggressive drivers who are prone to constantly breaking the rules. It is influencing their behavior that penalty points are aimed at.

So if we only increase the fines, the innovation will hit random violators, but will not stop systematic ones. These people are either rich enough to pay fines all the time, or they think they have the right to drive so fast. 

Experts from the ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign have prepared a Policy Brief outlining their vision for penalty reform and address it to the lawmakers. You can download the document at the link.

The first recommendation from the experts is to build a system of fines with a clear gradation. Currently, in Ukraine, a driver who exceeds the speed limit by 21 km/h will pay UAH 340 – the same fine as for exceeding the speed limit by 50 km/h. However, the difference is very tangible. Therefore, according to the international guidelines, every +10 km/h should mean a higher fine and more penalty points.

The For Safe RoadsCampaign proposes to build a system based on the Polish model with certain variations. At the beginning, each driver will have 0 points, and for violations that lead to increased danger, he or she will receive a certain number of them.

Each point is valid for a year. After a year the points will disappear. If the driver scores 24 points, he/she will lose driving privileges. And this termination of driving privileges should be automatic, without a court decision. Of course, the system should be digitalized, not with cards.

Violators should face serious consequences. For example, in Poland and Germany, a person who lost their driving privileges but got behind the wheel can end up behind bars, albeit not for long. But the very fact of criminal punishment deters people.

Of course, information support is also needed to make Ukrainians understand the need for the penalty points system.

All those present agreed with the need to introduce a system of penalty points in Ukraine. Thus, during the discussion, it was noted that fines would be an effective safeguard. People will consider the threat of losing their driving privileges for a while or getting new driver’s license.

Separately, the experts pointed out that the sanction should not apply only to those who exceeded the speed limit by more than 20 kilometers. It is necessary to advocate the reduction of this threshold (for example, to 10 km/h) or cancel it altogether. It is also necessary to deal with the right of the National Police to increase the speed limit to 80 km/h. After all, under such conditions, there are streets in Kyiv where drivers can legally drive at 100 km/h (80+20), which is a world record. 

Moreover, according to one of the speakers, the norm about “not fined 20 kilometers” has been copied from the Russian legislation and appeared at the time when the Ukrainian authorities were bringing our legal system closer to that of the Russian Federation.

The below question turned out to be debatable: whether penalty points are a sanction in the legislative sense. On the one hand, they appear as a result of a violation and should prevent it. On the other hand, receiving an additional point does not mean consequences for the driver, they will occur only when a person exceeds the limit. Participants note that it is important to clearly write out all the definitions so that the CCU does not later recognize the law as unconstitutional or appeal it to the ECHR.

There was also a call not to increase fines for drivers, given the difficult economic situation in the country. Instead, the focus should be on fairness and inevitability of punishment.

One of its guarantors should be the digitalization of penalty points, when the system itself enters information about them into a database and adds them up without human involvement.

The participants discussed the draft law of Ukraine No. 6502 registered in the Parliament, which is designed to introduce penalty points. The remark that is related to it is the failure to comply with the principle of equality, because it provides for the absence of penalty points accrual if they are recorded in an automatic mode; but for the same violation, recorded by a police officer in a manual mode, penalty points are accrued.

In the end, the participants agreed to move on to a common draft law that would take into account the provisions of Draft Law 6523 and the provisions proposed by the ‘For Safe Roads’ Campaign in the Policy Brief.