President Victor Yushchenko met with the leaders of Ukraine’s interior ministry on Monday and said in a speech Ukraine’s traffic safety rules must be “profoundly revised”, according to the President`s press-office.

Yushchenko urged the participants of the meeting to put forth their ideas on how to improve traffic safety which could be later incorporated in his decree and said he expected the ministry to “draw deep conclusions” from  today`s discussion.

He insisted that Ukraine’s traffic police, local authorities, courts and prosecution offices must cooperate to prevent road accidents and criticized courts and prosecution offices for being “not very active in investigating traffic violations.” He said the poor state of the country’s roads and negligence of Ukrainian drivers were among the major causes of so many accidents.

The president said 35,000 people have been killed in road accidents over the last five years in Ukraine and added that the country had one of the world’s highest road mortality rates. “This rate is almost eight times higher than in western Europe and four times higher than in eastern Europe. This is a direct assessment of your job,” he said and added that the traffic police department was sufficiently funded and fully staffed but failed to work effectively.

He said such a high mortality rate showed that “those state officials that are in charge of the road situation work unprofessionally." “They cannot fulfill their duties and implement their tasks," he said, suggesting that the interior ministry hold a special meeting to evaluate the performance of Ukraine’s traffic police. 

Yushchenko described the state of Ukrainian roads as “unsatisfactory” and said there are over 4,000 places in Ukraine where accidents occur regularly.  He said such roads must be repaved and added that Ukraine spent UAH 16 billion annually to deal with the consequences of road accidents. He suggested imposing harsher fines on those violating traffic rules and also toughening the current procedures to train drivers and give them driving licenses.

The president said bribery among traffic police officers was unacceptable. “…those people that have to protect and help go with extended hands,” he said and added that such cases contributed to the nation`s growing distrust of traffic police. He also said traffic police officers often falsified their documents.

Yushchenko said it was important to promote traffic safety. “We must teach the nation and state institutions to treat this problem exclusively in the context of the law,” he said, expressing hopes the situation would improve in 2008.