Bulgaria backtracks on camera, video monitoring of traffic cops

Bulgaria’s traffic police are again being allowed to issue fines without being subject to video and audio recording, with the backtrack coming just a few months after the anti-corruption measure was introduced.

The rule requiring video and audio monitoring of traffic police was brought in by Vesselin Vuchkov, who was Interior Minister from October to March 2015, after national uproar over a video that went viral on social networks of a traffic police officer soliciting and accepting a 20 leva (about 10 euro) bribe.

But now the requirement has been withdrawn, with authorities claiming that it hampered efforts to strengthen control on the roads.

There were too few patrols equipped with cameras and recording equipment to fight “the war on the roads”, according to a report by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television. Often motorists relied on the absence of a camera.

Against this background, the number of deaths and injuries on the roads of Bulgaria continue to be shocking. Between the beginning of 2015 and the end of July, 370 people have died in car accidents and about 5000 have been injured.

The change to the rule has been in force for about a week, although it became generally known only more recently.

The news, BNT said, provoked mixed feelings. “In 20 years, I have given them enough money for two Ladas,” one motorist said. However, another said that after the new – and now-abolished – rule came into force at the beginning of 2015, the number of times he had been stopped was reduced.

Police issued a reminder that there was a hotline to which tip-offs about corruption could be reported. Since the introduction of video recordings at the beginning of the year, no one had called.

Meanwhile, with the August peak summer holiday season underway, traffic police said that they would have “strengthened controls” around seaside resorts. There would also be an increase police presence on the Hemus and Trakiya motorways.

The opening August weekend saw four people die, while 50 were injured, in road accidents in Bulgaria.

In the first three days of August, traffic police had penalised 100 drivers, mostly for speeding. Other offences were drink-driving, overtaking when unsafe to do so, speaking on a mobile phone while driving, and failure to wear a seat belt.

(Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/flickr.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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