Almost twice as many people died in traffic accidents on Estonia's roads in the first half of the year than in the same period last year. Many of the accidents, the authorities suspect, are caused by distracted drivers. Interior Minister Andres Anvelt said that in the future, speed cameras should be sophisticated enough to be used to identify the extraneous activities of drivers.
Altogether 39 people lost their lives and 841 were injured in traffic accidents in the first six months of 2018, which is 16 deaths and 89 injuries more than in the same period of the previous year.
In her reaction to the statistic, Minister of Economic Affairs Kadri Simson (Centre) said on Friday that together with road maintenance, traffic surveillance and the number of police patrols needs to increase.
Interior Minister Anvelt suggested that as a next step his ministry would initiate legislation that would extend the use of stationary and mobile cameras beyond the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA).
"The concept of stationary speed cameras as they have been in use in Estonia for the last ten years does not ensure traffic safety in the best way possible," Anvelt said. "A review of the concept is needed, and state-of-the-art solutions need to be found."
The next generation of speed cameras should be more mobile, and also have the capacity to identify a driver's activity behind the wheel to reduce the number of people in traffic that e.g. use their phones while driving, as the number of violations involving these extraneous activities has been on the rise.
Between 1 January and 27 June this year, the PPA initiated altogether 1,821 misdemeanor procedures for this type of violation, 152 more than last year and a staggering 1,053 more than in 2016.
Beyond legal measures and more sophisticated cameras, Anvelt also proposed a sweeping update of the curricula of driving schools as well as study materials for new drivers.
Police moving from enforcement to prevention
Anvelt rejected Simson's criticism that the police isn't doing enough to control traffic. He pointed to statistics of the Police and Border Guard Board, according to which more has been contributed to traffic control timewise in the first five months of this year than in the same period the year before: 106,941 hours in 2018, and 100,840 hours in 2017.
The number of patrol and traffic officers is the same than the year before, and the number of vehicles used in the field work of the police as well as the average number of kilometres driven have increased.
Anvelt also said that the work of the police can't be measured by looking at the number of misdemeanor procedures initiated. The aim of the police is to move from being an organisation that punishes people for violations towards being a risk-prevention organisation.
Editor: Dario Cavegn
Source: ERR, BNS