The death rate on Russian roads decreased by 12 percent in the first seven months of the year, traffic police chief Viktor Kiryanov said.
Over 13,000 peopled died in 105,376 road accidents registered in January-July, he told the Ekho Mosky radio on Wednesday.
He said this represented a decrease of 6.8 percent from the same period of last year. "The number of those killed - 13,058 - is also down by 12 percent," Kiryanov said.
"Since the adoption of the law that increased penalty for drunk driving, the number of deaths and casualties as a result of road accidents caused by drunk driving has decreased by almost 40 percent," he said.
Speaking of child casualties on the roads, Kiryanov reported a decline of "5-7 percent" in the number of deaths among children.
He attributes this to the implementation of the federal programme "Improving Road Safety".
Earlier, Kiryanov admitted that "despite obvious tendencies in ensuring the safety of traffic, reducing the number of road accidents and their casualties, the situation on the roads remains complex".
"Most road accidents continue to be caused by drivers who intentionally grossly violate the rules. Such irresponsibility leads to tragedies, and the number of runovers is particularly disturbing," he said.
According to Kiryanov, over 13,000 people die and about 90,000 are injured in road accidents annually.
"The peak of incidents involving drunk drivers was registered in 2003 when 23,829 such incidents were reported. As a result, 4,039 people died and 33,400 were injured," Kiryanov said.
"This is a lot, and it became obvious that if we didn't reverse that trend, the situation would get only worse, and it was decided to focus on administrative penalties," he said.
"This lever has proved to be the most effective one so far," the official added.
"While at the end of the 20th century one could get away with a fine for drunk driving, now he would lose his driver's license without alternative or even get arrested," Kiryanov said.
"Over the past 10 years, almost 40,000 people have died in road accidents caused by drunk drivers. Those were mainly able-bodied and successful people who had families," the official said.
Last year, 13,600 road accidents involving drunk drivers were registered, a decrease of 12.7 percent from the pervious year. "They claimed 2,300 lives and left almost 20,000 people injured. These indices also decreased by 6.7 and 12.4 percent respectively," he said.
"And yet the numbers are still very big and we need to continue fighting drunk driving at the same pace," Kiryanov said.
Tougher penalties for drunk driving have helped save about 5,000 lives, he said.
"Experience shows that tougher penalties give good and quick results: People have begun to understand that they have only two options: either they obey the rules and drive a car or break them and then walk. Believe me, the risk of losing the driver's license becomes the main argument against drinking for many car owners," Kiryanov said.
He admitted that the effective penalties for drunk driving are sufficient, but "we have to make them work even better".
Kiryanov was echoed by his deputy Vladimir Kuzin who agreed that harsher punishment for drunk driving would help reduce the number of such road accidents and serve as a strong deterrence.
"We are confident that bigger responsibility for the persons who drive in a state of alcohol or drug intoxication and cause road accidents will enhance preventive work and help reduce the number of such accidents," Kuzin said.
"When punishment for drunk driving was increased in 2004 and they were stripped of their licenses for 1.5 to 2 years with no possibility to pay a fine instead, the number of road accidents with their participation decreased," he said.
"We hope the new amendments to play a positive role in restoring order on the roads," the official added.
Drunk drivers responsible for a road accident resulting in severe bodily harm will be punished by up to three years in prison. If a person has died as a result of such accident, the drunk driver will face 5 to 7 years in prison, and if two or more people have died, the prison term will increase to 7-9 years.
In all cases, a drunk driver will lose his license for up to three years.
The new draft law suggests punishing drunk driving by a ban on driving for up to three years.
If a drunk driver runs over a person who dies as a result of the road accident, the driver will face five to seven years in prison, and seven to nine years, if two or more people die.
Such offences will be considered as an element of crime and entail sanctions in the form of imprisonment with compulsory withdrawal of the driver's license for a term of up to three years.
Under the current law, both sober and drunk drivers are given equal prison terms for identical crimes.
About half a million drivers face administrative sanctions for drunk driving in Russia annually.
"Unless every citizen realises his personal responsibility for compliance with the traffic rules, we will continue to lose our most precious, our children, on the roads," Kiryanov said.
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