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June 4, 2024

Ukrainian Road Safety Coalition Urges Government to Update Speeding Laws  

Road Safety Coalition Members at the manifesto press conference launch in April 2024 

The Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine has left no one unaffected, impacting every aspect of life within the nation. It has threatened national integrity and security, as well as economic, social and cultural developments of the country and its people. To add to these challenges, injuries and deaths due to road crashes continue in an upward trend. In May, the Ukraine Road Safety Coalition urged decision-makers to prioritize road safety, launching the 2024 road safety manifesto. This call to action outlined key road safety imperatives such as stricter speeding policies, among others, and called on policymakers to implement policy solutions.   

Injuries and deaths related to road crashes are preventable with the right policies in place. In response, Ukraine’s civil society organizations are speaking out and sharing actionable policy recommendations with policymakers. Petro Korol, Ukraine coordinator of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s Road Safety program, tells us more about the development of the 2024 road safety manifesto and the current road safety situation in Ukraine. 

1. What are the road safety challenges right now in Ukraine? 

Unfortunately, along with war losses, people continue to die on the roads of Ukrainian cities. 

According to the National Police, the total number of road crashes in 2023 was 23,642. More than 3,053 people died and 29,502 were injured. Of the total number of fatalities last year, speeding was the principal cause of death for more than half.  

The unfortunate reality is that death on the roads is perceived as the norm. However, we know there are several effective policy solutions that can save lives when there is political will and when policies are implemented correctly. We know this because there are many European cities where fewer people die on the road as a result of car crashes.  

2. What is the current level of political support for road safety initiatives? 

Today the Ukrainian political agenda centers on the war and overcoming the consequences of war-related violence. With so many competing priorities, road safety and other public health issues are not the focus of Ukrainian politicians. 

However, there is still a window of opportunity for road safety policies to be on the national agenda. Parliament is still in session even though the country is at war. In early May, advocates participated in a hearing on road safety concerns in the Ukrainian parliament. Advocates leveraged this opportunity to shine a spotlight on a health burden that claims the lives of so many people, but far too often does not make the headlines. Effective road safety policies can save lives, prevent injury and lessen economic burden related to responding to road crashes. The work of the road safety civil society coalition is critical to bringing these important issues to the attention of Ukrainian policymakers. At the hearing, road safety advocates shared actionable policy recommendations around speeding and the importance of a demerit points system to keep people safe on the country’s roads.     

3. Why are legislative changes required to improve road safety, particularly for speeding? 

Even though speeding has been the principal contributor to fatalities resulting from road crashes, the Ukrainian system of penalties for excess speeding does not correspond to the severity of the impact such as injury or death. For instance, a driver who parks incorrectly will pay twice as much in fines as a driver speeding within the city at 99 km/h. Following parking rules and guidelines are important to road safety, but neglecting them does not result in fatalities. The first demand of the road safety manifesto is to revise the system of sanctions for speeding, particularly eliminating through legislation the unpunishable 20 km/h threshold and establishing new fines for speeding. Currently, a driver will only be fined for speeding if they are going 20 km/h or more above the posted speed limit.  

4. What other issues does the road safety manifesto raise and how will it improve road safety? 

The Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law conducted an opinion survey to better understand people’s attitudes and beliefs around road safety in Ukraine. More than half of Ukrainians believe that roads are not safe. The manifesto is a response of the Ukrainian road safety expert community to the increased number of deaths and injuries on the roads. It outlines 10 priorities that policymakers should adopt to reduce injuries and deaths. The priorities include, increasing fines for speeding; establishing a demerit points system; ensuring the development of automatic speed enforcement cameras for traffic violations; improving the state policy on driving under the influence of alcohol; providing reliable and accessible data on road crashes and implementing nationwide educational programs on road safety. 

If we consider the experience of the European Union countries, which have fewer road crashes, none of them have a 20 km/h threshold as Ukraine currently does. The Ukrainian Road Safety Coalition is working on a draft law with a progressive scale of responsibility, where drivers will pay a higher fine for exceeding the posted speed limits by 10 km/h. Studies show that the reaction time for a driver to take measures to avoid a crash reduces drastically as speed increases.  

Introducing a demerit points system is also a priority in Ukraine. This system will discourage drivers from repeated violation of speed limit laws. Drivers that accumulate points would see their car insurance rates rise or may be required to take mandatory driver’s education courses or face suspension of their driver’s license.   

5. What is the role of the road safety coalition in developing and advocating for new legislative changes? Which issues will the coalition prioritize in the coming months? 

The road safety coalition in Ukraine generates public support through awareness raising campaigns, while also building political will among members of parliament to take action on lifesaving road safety policies. A critical element is that the twelve organizations that make up the coalition represent different regions of Ukraine. This enables civil society organizations to advocate for issues that impact the local authorities, as well national-level stakeholders. Looking to the rest of 2024, the coalition will prioritize additional road safety issues including the need for effective helmet standards, a demerit points system and safer speeding laws.