The overall number of traffic violations in Russia fell by almost 20 percent following the introduction of higher fines on September 1 of this year, according to the Interior Ministry.

However, with more speed cameras on the ready, a majority of those violations were for speeding, with offences increasing nearly 40 percent compared to the same reporting period in 2012.

The Russian traffic police’s recently released road accidents figures for the first 10 months of 2013 show the total number of road accidents reported in the January to October period stood at 167,000, down 2.1 percent from the same period last year. The number of fatalities is also down by 7.3 percent from 2012 to 21,700 people.

According to the report, a total of 21.6 million motorists were fined for breaking the speed limit by 20 kph to 40 kph (12.4 mph to 24.8 mph) in the reported period, up almost 40 percent from the same period in 2012. There was an increase of 20 percent in violations where the speed limit was exceeded by 40 kph to 60 kph (24.8 mph to 37.2 mph), and a 25 percent increase in violations where the limit was exceeded by 60 kph to 80 kph (37.2 mph to 49.7 mph).

“These statistics can be explained by the rapidly growing number of speed cameras on the Russian roads," said Petr Shkumatov, the coordinator of the motorists rights group, Blue Buckets. “At the same time, the number of officers actually patrolling the roads is falling. As a result, the number of violations that require the presence of an officer to be recorded is falling, while the number of speeding offences, which are registered automatically by speed cameras, is growing. We believe that the Russian motorists have actually become much more disciplined.”

Russian cities and regions with the greatest number of road accidents remains unchanged; it is led by the city of Moscow (9,370 accidents), followed by Moscow Region (7,583) and St. Petersburg (6,788). The greatest number of fatalities has been recorded in Moscow Region (1,254), followed by Krasnodar Territory (1,100).

The number of accidents on the Russian roads grew in 2011 and 2012, but that negative trend was reversed in 2013, which experts attribute to several factors, including widespread use of speed cameras and higher fines.

The number of road accidents involving drink driving was falling steadily in Russia throughout 2013 – but in October that positive trend stalled, according to the Russian Interior Ministry. The report showed also a growing number of accidents caused by technical problems with the vehicles and poor state of the roads. 

The number of accidents caused by drink driving was falling steadily until September, when the government reported a decrease of 3.6 percent compared to the first nine months of 2012. In October, however, most of that progress was reversed, and the drink driving accidents figure stood only 0.7 percent lower compared to the same period last year.

The largest number of accidents caused by alcohol was reported in Nizhniy Novgorod Region (487), followed closely by Krasnoyarsk Territory (485), and Sverdlovsk Region (362). The number of deaths caused by drink driving fell by 8.7 percent in September; the fall recorded in October was a much less impressive 5.4 percent.

Despite the positive trends after the new, higher fines, some see the situation on Russian roads getting worse. The number of accidents caused by poor technical state of the road network rose by a whopping 21.7 percent to 43,000 in the reported period.

The largest number of such accidents was recorded in Moscow Region (2,600). There was also a growing number of accidents in which the offending party fled the scene; 7,800 such cases were recorded in the 10 months to October, an increase of 20.2 per cent.

The largest contributor to such statistics was the city of St. Petersburg (931 accidents in which the offender fled the scene). Yet another worrying trend is the growing number of accidents caused by technical problems with the vehicles. There were 1,200 such accidents in the reported period, which represents a huge increase of 43 percent.

The insurance industry believes that the situation on the roads in Moscow is more dangerous than anywhere else in the country. 

Motorists in Moscow are the most likely to make an insurance claim if they get into a tjraffic accident. The statistics is easily explained by the large number of new cars on the city’s roads, and by high insurance premiums, experts reckon.

Nevertheless, the overall number of traffic violations recorded over the 10 months to October 2013 has fallen. On September 1 the government introduced higher fines for almost every single type of traffic offense.

As a result, the number of motorists caught drunk at the steering wheel has fallen by 8 percent. The number of cases where motorists fail to produce their license and other required documents has fallen by 16 percent, and there have been 30 percent fewer cases of motorists jumping red lights on level railway crossings.

Vyacheslav Lysakov, the deputy chairman of the Duma select committee for infrastructure projects, said the number of drink drivers on the Russian roads isn’t rising.

“That number, as well as the number of accidents caused by drink drivers, has reached a fairly low level and now remains relatively stable," he said. Lysakov also described as a “sad constant" the 7,800 accidents caused by the poor state of the Russian roads.

“It is only recently that the government began investing large amounts of money in the road network," Lysakov said. “The effects, in the form of fewer accidents, will be felt in three to five years’ time.”

First published in Russian in Kommersant.