MOSCOW - Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and other Russian officials called for tougher punishments for drunk driving on Monday after a motorist slammed his car into a bus stop and killed seven people, five of them teenagers from an orphanage.
The accident in Moscow on Saturday underscored two major problems in Russia, where alcoholism cuts many lives short and death rates from road accidents are higher than in most Western countries.
“We’ve had a series of monstrous road accidents recently and unfortunately the absolute majority of them are committed in a state of severe alcoholic intoxication,” state-run news agency RIA quoted Medvedev as telling government officials.
“We ought to think about imposing more severe punishment for such crimes,” Medvedev said.
President Vladimir Putin also believes stricter measures are needed, RIA quoted his spokesman Dmitry Peskovas saying.
Police said the driver in Saturday’s accident, which also injured three people, was drunk when he lost control of his car.
Interfax news agency cited a police official as saying the man, who had had his licence suspended in 2010 for drunk driving, was driving at about 200 km per hour (125 mph).
He could be jailed for nine years.
Russians caught driving drunk face punishments including suspension of licence for two or three years and in some cases fines of up to 5,000 roubles ($160) or up to 15 days in jail if they do not cause injury. Bribes often enable drivers to escape punishment.
The head of the ruling United Russia party’s faction in parliament, Andrei Vorobyov, suggested fines of up to 100,000 roubles ($3,200), permanent licence revocation and criminal prosecution – meaning the possibility of prison terms – for repeat drunk drivers, RIA reported.
Saturday’s victims were three girls and two boys who lived in a state home for orphans and other disadvantaged children, as well as one of their care givers and her husband. They were returning from an art festival for children with disabilities and health problems, RIA said.