Police forces around the country this week will be carrying out an operation to ensure drivers comply with road safety rules: from wearing a seatbelt to the proper use of electronic devices while driving, to giving pedestrians more space at crossings and whether a foreigner has the right to be in the country.
In recent years an average of 20 pedestrians have been killed and 400 injured each year with 90% of those injuries in urban areas.
“Unfortunately, the crosswalk doesn’t live up to its name, because every fifth victim died on crosswalks. In addition more than half of pedestrian injuries happened on the sidewalk” says Inspector Heikki Kallio from the National Police Board.
Statistics show that road crossings are most dangerous for the elderly and children.
“As a result, our surveillance pays special attention to the behavior of vehicle drivers when approaching the crosswalks where there are children or the elderly” Inspector Kallio explains.
When nearing a pedestrian crossing point, motorists must be alert and prepared to give the pedestrians time to have an unobstructed walk across the road. By law, drivers must approach a crosswalk at a speed that allows them to come to a complete stop.
“This is still a big area for improvement in our traffic culture, because often pedestrians do not have unhindered access to the sidewalk, but have to wait in front of the sidewalk for vehicle drivers to neglect their duty to slow down and even stop” says Kallio.
Seat belt use and electronic devices
Officers are also paying particular attention this week to whether drivers and passengers are wearing seatbelts, and that they’re not using mobile phones when driving.
The use of seatbelts has increased in recent years – with 87% of back seat passengers using them. However the risk of personal injury for someone not wearing their seat belt, in an urban accident, is three times higher than if they’re wearing a seatbelt.
Last year’s police crackdown saw 1400 people get fines for not wearing their seatbelts and more than 700 people were fined for using their mobile phone while driving.
Checking identities of foreigners
Police will also use their traffic safety operation to check the identities and residence status of any foreigners they stop.
“Police control methods must never be based solely on actual or supposed ethnic origin, but must be based on clues or analysis of illegal residence” says Inspector Mia Poutanen.
Police have a mandate to combat illegal entry in the Schengen Area and Finland’s Aliens Act says that there are conditions of residence specified in law.