Driving Crackdown II

Czech roads will be full of police again, as the Interior Ministry tries to cut down on traffic violations in its “Operation KryÅ¡tof II.” In these operations, nearly all available police will be ticketing speeders and other traffic offenders on highways and streets throughout the country.

These crackdowns make for good publicity, and if the roads are safer for the next few days, that’s a good thing. But I don’t think they’re going to make a difference overall, and the reasons are structural.

For one thing, the Czechs still don’t have a points system for traffic violations. A drivers’ license is good for life. No renewal.

In many places, including California, traffic violations are accumulated on your driving record – the more violations you have, the higher the likelihood your license will be revoked, and the higher your insurance bills will be, as you are considered a higher risk. (Petr Bokuvka has a recent post about changes for the worse in liability insurance).

Here, the system is deeply flawed, with offenders getting off by only paying a cash fine on the spot to the policeman. This an obvious invitation to abuse; policemen should never have to handle cash in any circumstance. Today’s MF Dnes has a story about officers in Brno stealing money from drivers they ticketed, by overcharging for violations as well as failing to hand out receipts for fines paid.

Again, in California’s example, police simply hand you a ticket with your violation; the courts determine the amount of the fine according to fixed rules. No vykecaní (bullshitting). Drivers can challenge a ticket, and if the policeman fails to appear in court, the violation is erased.

Some of these weaknesses need to be addressed before EU accession next year. Transportation Minister Milan Šimonovský is seeking to renew the laws governing highway transport which include putting a points system for traffic violations in place, as well as tougher penalties for drunk driving.

These efforts should help. For now, though, one can witness a litany of offenses, from the Visa Taxis rocketing through residential neighborhoods to and from the airport, speeders of all shapes and sizes, pedestrians routinely ignored in crosswalks, five cars crowded into an intersection at the same time to make left turns, and cars routinely following too close – (“I was curious to see what they had in their trunk,” one friend joked when I pointed it out to him.).

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