Pedestrian crossings in Chisinau, as well as those in other towns of our country, are no longer a safe place for those, who want to cross the street. Particularly dangerous are the crossings where there are no traffic lights. The news more and more often reports cases, where pedestrians are either killed or crippled on such crossings. Some people think that the reason for such accidents is the lack of culture and the drivers’ irresponsibility, others that the law is too mild, and the third group accuse the pedestrians. Many of the victims, injured on the pedestrian crossings, claim that corruption is the main cause as drivers remain unpunished, or receive symbolic punishments because they bribe law enforcement officers.
About 27 people a year die in accidents that happen on pedestrian crossings in Moldova, while in Germany, this figure is recorded once in 4 years.
Road traffic regulations stipulate that pedestrians have priority on specially designed passages of road and drivers are obliged to stop the vehicle and give way to the pedestrians. If a vehicle approaches a pedestrian crossing and the pedestrians interrupt the normal crossing of the road on a marked surface, the driver is obliged, after stopping the vehicle, to invite the pedestrians to cross the road. Pedestrians are considered to be crossing if at least one of them has stepped on the pedestrian crossing.
The reality is different though. Drivers often fail to comply with the road signs, and as a result, pedestrians are shattered on the zebra crossing.
Article 238 of the Code of Contraventions provides for a fine of up to 6 conventional units (300 lei) for "not granting legal priority to pedestrians".
In the case of road accidents resulting in average bodily injury, according to the Criminal Code, drivers are liable to a fine of up to 650 conventional units (32500 lei), unpaid community service from 180 to 240 hours, or up to 3 years of imprisonment with deprivation of the right to drive a means of transport for up to 2 years.
If the victims of the car accident has serious bodily injuries that lead to disability or death, the penalty for the guilty driver is from 3 to 7 years of imprisonment and 12 years if the culprit is intoxicated.
If the victim injured on the zebra crossing has slight bodily injuries and requires hospitalization for up to 21 days, the driver escapes with a fine of no more than 1500 lei and 6 penalty points.
Statistics show that most often, drivers who have caused accidents with casualties escape unpunished, or receive symbolic punishments, and victims incur additional costs for recovery.
Hit on a zebra crossing and threaten to keep quiet
Nastea R., a 16-year-old teenager, was hit on a zebra crossing on the morning of October 9, 2017, while going to school. The girl started to cross the street when the traffic light was green, when she was halfway through, the light became yellow, then the red light turned on. Two cars passed by the girl, avoiding buffering, but a taxi hit her violently.
The taxi driver, Iuri Vildeaev, took the girl into the car , yelling at her that she was guilty of the accident and threatened her not to tell anyone about the accident, otherwise she would be responsible.
The taxi driver took the victim to the nearest fracture clinic, where he told the doctors that the girl fell down while walking. Being asked about his relation to the girl, R. Vildeaev said he was her uncle.
When the doctor found that the girl had no bone trauma she was allowed to leave. Vildeaev did not try at least to take Nastea home. He left her at the first trolley station. The girl was shocked, her clothes were torn and dirty.
In the evening, when the girl’s mother returned from work, she noticed there was something wrong with her daughter, the girl was all in bruises. The next day, Nastea was admitted to the hospital, where it was found that following the blow, her internal organs, especially the kidneys, were affected.
Since then, the victim is undergoing a treatment. In addition, she has acquired a phobia, being afraid to cross the street.
The girl's mother filed a complaint with the police. However, the forensic expert examined only the external lesions, finding them insignificant.
Vildeaev was punished with a fine of 1500 lei and deprived of driving license for a period of 2 years.
Moreover, the taxi driver has never inquired about the victim’s health condition and never offered any payment for her treatment.
Nastea’s mother filed an application with the Prosecutor's Office and asked for a criminal case to be filed: "My daughter was not offered the necessary medical assistance because Vildeaev did not tell the doctor about the accident. My daughter feels bad now. He left the scene of the accident and did not undergo the test, maybe he was drunk driving."
It should be noted that in 2016, a criminal case was filed against Vildeaev for having committed a road accident in an advanced state of intoxication. The taxi driver escaped liability, being amnestied.
Accused of jumping under the wheels ... on a zebra crossing
T.M., a 7-year-old child, was smashed as he crossed the road on the zebra, at the intersection of Lech Kaczynski Street with Hancesti Road, on the afternoon of December 15, 2017. The child was heading to the nearby library.
As a result of the impact, the child was thrown on the edge of the pavement. The vehicle was driven by Radu Ciornei, a young man employed by the Arax company, who was returning after closing an order.
A witness of the accident called the emergency, which transported the boy to the hospital, where it was determined that the victim's left leg bones were crushed. The child went through a nightmare: he spent motionless for 21 days, with a weight hanging on the metal implants in his leg, then for about two months with his foot in plaster.
In the hospital, the boy "celebrated" the New Year's Eve, Christmas and his birthday.
Once his plaster had been removed, the child underwent a costly recovery treatment to start walking again. Consequently, one of his legs is shorter.
When the accident occurred, the criminal investigation officer, Oleg Luchianov, arrived on the spot. He came to the hospital, where he found the boy’s mother and asked her if someone had ever taught the child the traffic rules and how to cross the street. The law enforcer also told the woman that the boy had not crossed the street in the right way and that the impact occurred about 10 meters away from the pedestrian crossing.
While the child was examined by doctors, the policeman approached him, and in the presence of his mother, asked how everything had happened. The victim said he looked in both directions before crossing, then he was hit on the zebra and "flew" away.
After that, the case was tabled. The child's mother found the policeman's phone number, which each time referred to different reasons: first, the child should be released so that he could hear him and ask for a medical test without which he could not file the criminal case, then he waited for the winter holidays to pass and so on. When the child was brought home, seeing the policeman is not in a hurry to take action, the child’s parents publicized the case through a social network and protested in front of the Chisinau Police Inspectorate asking for justice.
On the same day, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Chisinau municipality took action, initiating a criminal case, carrying out a forensic expertise and hearing the child. After 3 days, the experts gave the verdict: the trauma is serious and presents danger to the child’s life.
Over this time, the driver, who buffered the child, twice called his parents and told them that the boy threw himself under the vehicle, maybe he wanted to commit suicide, or maybe someone pushed him, everything had happened away from zebra and that only the child was guilty of the accident.
Neither the criminal investigation officer, nor the driver knew that a resident of the nearby house shot on his mobile phone what happened one minute after the accident. The video shows that the boy is near the roadside, near the pedestrian crossing, and the car is next to the zebra.
Subsequently, the driver seemed disturbed by the fact that he might remain without a driving license.
He risks a fine of 20,000 lei, being hit by a car
Valeriu Momutiuc, aged 66, was hit on April 1, 2017 by a car just in front of a road sign on Petru Zadnipru Street in Chisinau, which warns drivers that the street can be crossed by children. Momutiuc, on his bicycle, was returning home from a friend of his, whom he had helped in the vineyard. The man was riding legally, not exceeding the distance of one meter away from the edge, foreseen for bicyclists.
Being hit by the car, the victim flew a few meters away. The driver tried to escape the scene, but he had to stop over 20 meters away at the intersection due to the heavy traffic. Limping, Momutiuc managed to catch up with him. Meanwhile, the police arrived at the scene, being called by eyewitnesses.
Although Valeriu Momutiuc had a cerebral concussion and was hospitalized for a few days, the driver was not held accountable.
The retiree says he saw the driver giving money to the policeman. Instead, an administrative case was started against Momutiuc.
Article 233 of the Code of Contraventions provides for a fine of 400 to 500 conventional units (15-20 thousand lei), community service for a period of 20 to 40 hours, or 15 days of arrest for drunk driving vehicles, which require no driving license. Bicycles, according to the Road Traffic Regulations, are included in this category.
Basically, the fine for a drunk biker is several times larger than the one prescribed for crushing a pedestrian on the zebra crossing, if the victim has not very serious injuries.
In some cases, the size of the fine for bicyclists may even be equivalent to the criminal fine, imposed on drivers who, following road accidents, have left victims with medium trauma. Article 264 (1) of the Penal Code provides for a maximum fine of 650 conventional units (32500 lei) for drivers, who have violated the traffic rules and consequently have caused average bodily injuries to other persons. The lack of the lower ceiling for criminal fines often allows drivers to escape with insignificant fines, while victims incur significant costs for treatment. According to the Regulation no. 199 on assessment of the severity of bodily injury, the average bodily injury is considered when long-term health is disrupted for more than 21 days and the victim loses the permanent work capacity in a volume exceeding 10% but up to 33%.
Paying damages, drivers escape punishment
On December 18, 2017, lawyer Denis Iurco, who was drunk driving, injured two women and their children on a zebra while crossing the street. When the victims asked him for an account, the defender threatened them with a gun. The Prosecutor's Office filed two criminal cases, one for a death threat and another for injuries caused by average trauma by a drunk driver.
However, the driver is likely to escape. He came to an agreement with the injured parties, who withdrew their claims for certain amounts of money. One of the victims, who had her leg broken, received 5,000 euros from Iurco.
Article 109 of the Criminal Code provides for the abolition of criminal liability for a minor offense or less serious offense in the event of parties' reconciliation.
What does the judicial practice say?
An analysis of court decisions leads us to the conclusion that, most often, those who cripple the pedestrians on zebra crossings are convicted to suspended sentences, imposed ridiculous fines, acquitted or escape due to amnesty.
In such a way, Petru Cazacu escaped punishment. In 2015, the man who was driving a car, crashed a woman. The victim died shortly afterwards in the hospital. Initially, the driver was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 3 years. The prosecutor challenged the decision to the Court of Appeal, but his request was rejected. The judges of the Supreme Court were also on the driver's side, upholding the decision of the trial court.
Veaceslav Velicico, another driver who crashed a pedestrian on a zebra, was imposed a fine of 3,000 lei, maintaining his driving license. However, the driver did not agree with this punishment, claiming final acquittal on the grounds that he does not have enough experience.
The subjective nature of the offense, referred to in Article 264, is characterized only by imprudent guilt, therefore, the preparation or attempted crime is excluded. If the driver of the means of transport intentionally caused damage to the life and health of a person, the offenses must be classified as crimes against the life and health of a person. In fact, such a reclassification is rarely used. Law enforcers say it is difficult to prove their intention.
Those who have suffered, or the victims' successors are entitled to claim repayment of material and moral damages incurred. Typically, the courts partially accept victims' claims for damages, and the amounts accepted by the court sometimes do not cover half of the losses incurred.
In happier cases, when magistrates fully accept the claims of injured parties in road accidents, there are other ways not to compensate for the victim’s losses. The most eloquent is the example of an underage girl, who remained in a wheelchair after being hit by a car. The court ordered the guilty party to pay the victim 140,000 euros. Although he had a fairly good income, the driver, who injured the girl, presented to the bailiff a certificate, confirming that he had modest incomes. Thus, he pays the victim a maximum of one thousand lei per month, money that sometimes does not cover even the medication.
What do the authorities say?
According to the statistics of the National Patrol Inspectorate, 365 pedestrians were injured in 2017, which by 23% exceeds the figure for 2016. Following road accidents, 20 pedestrians died last year, and another 359 were traumatized. Basically, every day a person in the Republic of Moldova is buffered by a car.
Municipal authorities took action and in February 2018, they presented a long line of actions to ensure traffic safety. The promised measures include installation of new road signs with reflective edges, marking the waiting space for public transport, renovation of underground passageways and installation of skidding before pedestrian crossings.
In 2016, a TV station initiated a campaign to tighten the law for not giving pedestrians priority on crossings. Moreover, a request was made to the government, which proposed that the failure to give priority to pedestrians on crossings be classified as a serious offense resulting in suspension of driving license for at least 90 days, a fine and penalty points, as provided by the European legislation. Although nearly two years passed, the government has not taken any attitude yet.