MOSCOW, May 21 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to reduce, from July 1, 2012, the number of service vehicles authorized to use flashing lights from 969 to 569. Moreover, heads of Russian regions can longer use blue flashing lights on their vehicles outside their home regions, and heads of a number of federal executive bodies will be allowed to use flashing lights only on the territory of Moscow. In his election campaign however Putin promised much more dramatic cuts – to “several dozens.”
Under the decree, among those who will not be allowed to use blue flashing lights are officials from the government administration, higher courts, officials from the bulk of ministries and from almost all federal agencies and services, members of the Russian Central Election Commission, and lawmakers from regional parliaments, writes the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily. Heads of Russian substituent regions will have the right to use flashing lights only within their home regions.
In recent year, the problem of excessive use of flashing lights has been a serious irritating factor for drivers. It is a secret to no one: drivers of such cars to not hesitate to violate traffic rules and often cause road accidents, the Kommersant newspaper writes. It is only natural that slogans demanding to ban flashing lights have often been used in various protest actions, including those organized by the Russian Federation of Car Owners and the Society of Blue Buckets (a free protest movement that has emerged in Russia as a response to arbitrary, self-serving use of emergency rotating blue flashers by public servants).
It was Vladimir Putin’s most resounding election campaign promise to reduce the number of cars authorized to use such blue flashers, the newspaper notes. In early February 2012, Putin vowed to “cardinally” cut the number of such vehicles – to “several dozens,” allowing only those state servants “who enjoy the services of state bodyguards and who need physical protection” to use such lights.
“Putin has failed to keep his words. The idea however was brilliant,” Petr Shkumatov, the Blue Buckets coordinator, told the Kommersant. “If the idea were realized, there will be only about 50 persons, for whom blue flashing lights are not merely a tool to quickly get to a shop or a dry cleaner’s but a real necessity – to stay alive. This is not the way to solve this problem.”
Putin’s initiative is unlikely to ease the traffic situation in Moscow, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper cites Sergei Kanayev, the leader of the Russian Federation of Car Drivers. “Five hundred rotating flashers are too much anyway. We will continue efforts to ban state servants use such flashers allowing their use only by emergency and special services. If state servants have the right to use the services of bodyguards, well, there are police cars,” he said. In his words, another problem is that it is hardly ever possible to count all cars with rotating blue flashers, whether there are 500 or more such cars. “In this connection, we have begun to develop a system that will make it possible to monitor the number of cars with flashing lights. We plan to launch it from July 1,” he said.
The next logical step to be made is a complete ban on the sales of such beacons, experts note. “The number of cars with flashing blue lights will be reduced but subjectively one may not feel it because such beacons are on free sale,” the RBC daily cites Vyachelsav Lysakov, the leader of the Freedom of Choice drivers’ organization. He believes this problem is most serious in the Russian capital city. “Illegal rotating flashers are arresting one’s attention in the region, while it is much easier to mingle with the heavy traffic in Moscow,” he said.
The initiative is an utter profanation, Viktor Travin, the president of the panel for legal protection of car owners, told the Novye Izvestia newspaper. “In the past 15 years we have been watching bureaucrats fighting with themselves trying to win the right to use flashing lights from each other. But as a matter of fact one thing is absolutely clear: people are irritated at all these privileges in the streets. And the fact that there will be 569 of them, instead of a thousand, is unlikely to change anything,” he said. In his words, hundreds of “illegal” beacons are currently in wide use. “Whereas only 1,040 flashers are officially authorized, actually there are at least four times as much in use,” he noted. “Traffic police are simply ignoring such vehicles, opting not to look into whether this or that beacon has an official authorization or not. Well, it is no secret that one can ran into big trouble.”