Editorial: Fineland Estonia?

Kiirusemõõtja. PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu / Postimees

Compared to five years ago, traffic offences are down over two times.

A couple of weeks ago, Postimees featured an opinion article by sworn advocate Leon Glikman under heading Fineland (Trahviriik, PM August 13th) wherein he wrote that «lion’s share of effort is wasted not on ensuring actual traffic safety but to exploiting the minor offender, it being easier to extract fines from such and [these kind of people] more pleasant to commune with. /…/»

«The chase of the minor offender ought to be halted; full force needs to be directed at removing from behind wheels the hardened traffic hooligans such as those overtaking others in blind curves and habitual drunk drivers,» the lawyer demanded.

The article generated quite a buzz and, as expected, failed not to upset policemen. Humanly speaking, the upset may be understood; even so, as even the traffic guardians fall under the question posed by Ancient Roman poet Juvenal: who guards the guardians?, it is vital for citizens to detect possible errors committed by the latter and speak up on these, publicly.

In the light of the question quipped by Juvenal, still actual after 1,800 years, it is obvious and natural that state authority enforcers are constantly held accountable for proving the meaningfulness of their activities. While citizens may afford emotional assessments, from guardians we expect facts.

How, then, about Fineland? As covered by today’s Postimees, traffic offences have decreased by over two times, in five years. Pecuniary punishments for severe offences have indeed been increased, but the average of fines charged, in reality, is much lower than the maximum rates. Indeed, police has been concentrating on such offences as endanger lives – speeding, drunk driving, unfastened seatbelts. Who would argue that?

With more than a half of the fatal accidents, the people killed had their seatbelts unfastened; speeding being the chief reason for accidents. The dangers of drunk driving, we suppose, need no further explanation here. As the amount of traffic-deaths – quite catastrophic a decade ago – has decreased, we might then have reason to believe that something has been done right here, in Estonia. 

Surely there are lots of factors behind this, some weightier that others (such as Estonia lacking a car tax – the state not hindering purchases of newer and safer vehicles); even so, a link can be shown between police’s choices and lower numbers of traffic casualties.

Looking at the figures posted in today’s newspaper, Estonia is no Fine Country – at least when it comes to traffic. And when it comes to the less dangerous offences, the policeman limits himself chiefly to a (reprimanding and instructional?) lecture.