The new Road Traffic Act aims for a safer future
On 23 November 2017, the Finnish Government submitted to Parliament its proposal on a new Road Traffic Act. The purpose of the new act is to improve the smooth running and safety of transport and create preconditions for the digitalisation and safe automation of traffic while making progress with deregulation.
The draft act collects all statutes applicable to road transport into a single, logical whole. Individual statutes have been reduced in number and simplified, and the authorities’ procedures have been modernised.
The Road Traffic Act covers the principles of traffic and traffic rules, traffic control devices and traffic signs, the rules of operating vehicles and the consequences of traffic violations. According to Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner, the Road Traffic Act is one of the acts with the most far-reaching impacts on citizens’ everyday lives, and for this reason, it must be as unambiguous and comprehensible as possible.
“The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that road users act as consistently and predictably as possible. A precondition for safe, smoothly running and thus ecological transport is that road users are sufficiently familiar with the rules of the road and understand their purpose. When road users understand the rules and perceive them correctly, they will be easier to follow, Minister Berner sums up.
According to Berner, the central goal of the draft act is to protect especially those in the most vulnerable position on the road. In the proposed statute, a particular attempt has been made to take pedestrians and cyclists into consideration.
Two key trends stand out among the basic provisions of the draft act. Firstly, the proposal hopes to increase road users' personal responsibility for traffic safety and smooth traffic flow. Secondly, the proposal anticipates technological advances in transport, including automation and data utilisation needs.
While deregulation increases flexibility, it also stresses road users’ responsibility. For example, while parking on the left side of the street is no longer illegal, the driver must assess if this is safe, or decide when to change to winter tyres, when it no longer has to be done on a specific date.
As an example of preparing ground for automation, a person who controls a vehicle without actually sitting inside it would also be considered a road user, and when parked, it must be ensured that the vehicle will not start moving unexpectedly, for example when under remote operation.
It is proposed that, following the European practice, the currently yellow continuous lines on the road be replaced by white lines, which are easier to detect by machine vision. In order to make wider use of data, it is proposed that geographic information related to all traffic signs, traffic lights and other traffic control devices be transmitted to an information system maintained by the Finnish Transport Agency to allow their use in a digital format, for example in automated traffic.
Last spring, the draft act was circulated widely for opinions, and the policies proposed in the draft were adjusted on this basis. These adjustments mainly concern the use of cycling helmets and reflectors, parking, vehicle speeds and winter tyres as well as the replacement of fines by penalty fees and the determination of penalty fees.
The draft act would implement the Government resolution on road safety and provide a better response to requirements arising from the Constitution, international treaties and European Union law.
The proposal also supports the Government’s aims of deregulation and dismantling norms. In addition, the reform will implement the Government’s key project on building a digital growth environment.
Timo Kievari, Director of Unit, tel. +358 (0)295 342620
Kimmo Kiiski, Senior Adviser, tel. +358 (0)295 342304
Mikko Karhunen, Senior Engineer, tel. +358 (0)295 342014