POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Ljubo Zajc

Slovenian socio-political upheavals in 1991 caused changes in the characteristics of the road safety elements. The construction of a highway system in Slovenia has proved to be a major political targets. Concerning the pressure of the market economy, liberalisation of prices and international interest in connecting the eastern and western parts of Slovenia, accelerated building of the highway system seems a logical solution. Traffic safety is one of the proxy arguments for promoting road construction. The following short and general scale of effective accident reducing measures reflect the level of their political importance: road related measures (construction of highways) are at the top of the scale, followed by measures related to police traffic control, with information and education being at the bottom of the scale.

The traffic safety situation and existence of different entropy reasons in the national traffic safety system put a special importance on traffic policing. Why? There are various answers to this question. Police traffic control and enforcement are measures for quick and relatively inexpensive intervention. Effectiveness of police surveillance measures without any local or national support (information, education, ......) are limited and short term. Traffic surveillance in democratic societies need more support and understanding from the public. The author believes that the police should build balance between police enforcement and prevention actions. How fast these goals will be reached does not strictly depend on police organisation but also on extensive public support and political readiness to start a joint effort in the preparation of the national traffic safety programme.


Appropriate road safety policy is one of the essential elements of a well-balanced overall transport and public health policy (Michael Ray, 1995). From this point of view, the national parliament, government, government ministries and agencies have one of the main responsibilities for road safety. They prepare professional starting points, decide about transport and health policy and put them into a practice.1 Road safety responsibility also lies in private agencies, different associations, non governmental organisations and individual road users.

Cost-efficient traffic and transport regulation depends on a sound road safety policy and management. In this linkage we can observe some elements of every transport policy. Some of the most significant elements are: mobility of persons and goods, free flow of traffic, traffic safety, protection of the environment, etc.. All traffic measures should first be evaluated, not only in terms of road safety but also from the economic and environmental point of view. Not respecting these demands brings unwanted consequences. The market economy, liberalisation of prices and other various international interests in efficient connection of eastern and western parts of Slovenia put pressure on the level of political importance to mobility. Mobility denotes the availability and cost of transport including the amount of time spent on a given trip. Reducing the speed limit often brings different benefits in the road safety field but, in the field of mobility, we can expect undesired consequences. 2 On the other hand, legal rising of speed limits on different types of roads brings positive results in case of mobility, but also often brings about negative consequences like noise and pollution. 3 Political decision making between benefits on one hand and draw back the other must be balanced and supported not only by professional and scientific work but also by public opinion. Economic and industrial life require mobility for an increasing number of vehicles. From this point of view, it is profitable for politicians to work for a better motorway system. A modern motorway system brings positive safety effects, on the major roads as well as on regional roads. Some road users from the major roads will start to use new motorways, but we often forget the others who will still use the major roads and the other roads. On these roads, there will still remain numerous dangerous sections and darkened areas which are technically improper and unsafe.

Fig.1 The Proportion of Fatalities
on different Roads (1995)
Fig. 2 The proportion of different roads
per kilometres (1995)

Slovene politicians and some traffic experts do not realise that road safety provides a great opportunity for efficient pre-election political propaganda and opportunities for experts to make prominent careers.

At this point, one must return to the first section of the chapter, where collective responsibility for road safety is mentioned. Analysis of the individual traffic participants' responsibility will be deliberately avoided in this paper. The overall responsibility for road safety on the national level, is, however divided among parliament, government, a number of ministries and executive agencies. Single tasks and roles of the ministries in the road traffic system are generally defined by different Acts. Each ministry should promote road safety with specific measures. These general acts represent a very unstable base for the organisational and functional road safety framework in Slovenia. The consequences of that fact are easily recognisable. Many groups try to find, in vain, one particular ministry or governmental body responsible for leading, co-ordinating and directing all conflicting subjects. 4 The preparation and implementation of specific tasks is without any co-ordination. Historical reasons hidden in relation to professional and political responsibility for road safety account for that attitude toward Slovene road safety. The co-operation between different organisations involved in road safety is a complex problem. This is not only a Slovenian characteristic, the same situation can also be found in other central and eastern European countries. Dr. Rudolph G. Bolsius calls this phenomena " The lone rider syndrome". Among Slovene politicians, administrators and others, a lack of will power and readiness to do co-operative work and development of mutual short and long term road safety policy still exist. 5

Traffic law enforcement includes all police activities relating to the observation of traffic violations and the police actions to be taken, such as warning, reporting, summonsing, and arresting. Whenever possible, the form of enforcement used should be designed to educate those who have violated the law and others who may be influenced by their example so that such unlawful and unsafe driving will not be repeated (Paul B. Weston, 1978 ).

It's true, that enforcement impacts are immediately felt by the road users. Effects of long- term measures of public health policy, traffic education and road engineering take years to change driving habits and driving conditions. The emphasise of excessive enforcement in the last decade is a consequence of national economic power and ill-preparedness for serious work on road engineering (regional and local roads) , traffic education and training.

These introductory and illustrative thoughts represent the base for a clear understanding of the role of the traffic law enforcement in the Slovene Road Safety System.


The State and Slovene Law define tasks and competencies of the Ministry of the Interior and some of its organisational units in the road safety field. One of the main tasks of police profession is to be occupied with the questions where, when, how and by which means and measures must the police operate according to road safety circumstances and some of the society's expectations.

The general tasks of the Ministry of the Interior in the field of road safety are defined by the Law on Organisation and Working Scopes of the Ministries.

The Ministry of the Interior works on scopes concerning: 6

The Road Traffic Act defines the main police tasks and warrants (there are over 40).All road safety tasks of the Ministry of the Interior can be separated into three parts:

Fig. 2 Units of the Ministry of the Interior which are involved in Police Road Safety Process


From the organisational scheme above, it is possible to examine the organisational units of the Ministry of the Interior which are directly or indirectly involved in road safety with their activities from the fields of traffic law enforcement, traffic information process, restoration, collecting and maintaining different information (about road accidents, offences, penalties), police education and training, traffic accident investigation etc..

This paper presents the organisations that implement traffic law enforcement tasks. Such organisations from the upper scheme are the Traffic Department at the Administrative Internal Affairs Directorate, Traffic Police Sector at the Police Directorate and different police units at the Regional Police Administrations. Discussion about importance and values of the other mentioned organisations that have a great influence on the quality of traffic police management and activity is deliberately left out of this paper.


In a broad interpretation of the conception of traffic law enforcement we can also include activities and competencies of the Traffic Department despite the fact that this department does not exercise perform control over individual road users. The Traffic Department is organisationally linked to the Administrative Internal Affairs Directorate. Its tasks are controlling the issuing of driving licences, technical inspections and registration of motor vehicles and tractor trailers, the functioning of driving schools and examination centres, as well as regulating sports entertainments on public roads. Six inspectors and department chief working in this department. Fifty-eight local administrative units with their traffic sections work in local areas. A special relation exists between the traffic department and the local administrative units (traffic sections). The traffic department gives local administrative units some professional advice, assistance and obligatory instructions. It also makes decisions about complaints against written orders or other individual acts of the local administrative units. 7

2.1 Driving schools and the competencies of the Traffic Department and Local Traffic Sections

A driving culture, ability, and safety behaviour on public roads are some of the pre- requests for safety on public road. The driving schools with their programs dealing with road safety, play a great role in the changing of attitudes of the motorists. 8 The Traffic Department and Traffic Sections at the Local Administrative Units cooperate with Market and Work Inspection. They have got the following law tasks and competencies:

2.2 Technical inspection of motor vehicles and trailers

Eight hundred sixty thousand motor vehicles and trailers have to pass technical inspection annually. 10 Annual technical inspection represents a conditions which enables Local Administrative Units (Traffic Sections) or enterprises, who implement vehicle inspection with special authorisation to prolong the validity of registration cards. Enterprises implementing vehicles inspection must have a special authorisation of the Minister of the Interior. The minister also issues the regulations as to the conditions and manner of implementing vehicle inspection. The traffic department implements control over those enterprises and the Minister can temporarily interdict inspection activity or even revoke an authorisation.11 Every controller who implements vehicle inspection has to pass a professional exam in the presence of special commission. The head of the Traffic Department leads this commission, and together with the Director of Administration of Internal Affairs Directorate, issues certificates.

2.3 Sport entertainments on public roads

The organiser of sport and other entertainments on public roads must get a special permit at their Local Administrative Authority. The Traffic Department issues permits when entertainment is performed through out several communities. 12 Local Police Stations and Traffic departments have the power to control and order measures for ensuring place of entertainment, to regulate the traffic and they can also temporarily interdict an entertainment.


The Traffic Police are a nation-wide unit specialised in traffic enforcement, which takes care of safety work provided by the police.

Traffic control and traffic direction are the main tasks of the Traffic Police. Traffic control is one attempt to solve the problem of a human survival on the roads in our mechanical and electronical era. The basic purpose of the Police Traffic Control Unit is to protect road users. The control includes the protection of all road users against each other and even the individual road user against himself. This kind of protection demands from the special organisation Traffic Police, particular knowledge of different sciences, special analysis methods, planning and assessing police road safety process, special education and training programs, special police tactics, police control devices and foreign police experiences.

The function of traffic control on motor ways and on highways has been implemented to eleven special Traffic Police Stations in the areas of each of the eleven Regional Police Administrations.One Special Mobile Unit works periodically on all Slovene roads and at the same frequented border crossings. About 460 uniformed traffic policeman work in these units, who represent about 9% of all uniformed policemen in Slovenia. Among these are a group of policeman from the 39 police stations for performing general police tasks and their 12 additional divisions. The majority of Police Stations also have groups for police road safety matters. They implement traffic control function on some regional and on local roads and city streets. Police Traffic Inspectors from the Police Inspectorate at Regional Police Administrations (11) co-ordinate traffic police work among Traffic Police Stations , Police Stations for performing general police tasks and the Traffic Police Sector.

The general strategy of police traffic law enforcement is prepared by the head administrators at the Traffic Police Sector. Strategy was clearly established and well communicated to all ranks. It is based on selective enforcement. Selective enforcement is defined as enforcement proportional to traffic accidents with respect to time, place, type of violations, violators and weight of consequences. Police efforts are directed against accident- causing violations and violation-consequences. The greater part of that strategy is based on pragmatism and has got two different parts. The first one can be defined as a centralistic plan on areas of speed control,13 drinking-driving control and control of safety belt use. That control plan make head administrators at the Traffic police department and it is valid as an obligatory plan for all police traffic units in country. Police control plan has two different aims on these three areas. The police wants to decline better results in decreasing of traffic accidents causes and decreasing the heaviness of traffic accidents consequences. The second aim refers to police controlling over using of the safety belts.

Speed is one of the main problems on Slovene roads and law enforcement has the power to reduce it. Obtrusive law enforcement can have two effects. First, there is a preventive effect: passing drivers notice enforcement activities and most of them will slow down when seeing a police patrol. Second, there is a repressive effect for detected offenders; they either receive a warning or a speeding ticket. The police can choose to optimise one of these two effects.

The results of the traffic police's repressive plan from the last years can be presented in concrete numbers.

Fig.3 Fines and Police reports to the magistrates court for traffic violations


In 1995, there were 101425 violators fined on the spot violations for failure to use seat belts, 46918 reports of drunk driving and 161507 violators fined for not respecting the speed limit. A repressive action plan for 1996 demands an increase in repressive measures by 28% for safety belt offences, 14% exceeding the speed limit and 11% more for drunk driving offences. The authoritarian style of leadership, exclusively reserved judgements on correct and harmonious measures and numerical ordering of measures are typical characteristics of centralistic part of strategy. Parallel with police repression measures, small and short term police information campaigns are sometimes run about speeding, drunk driving and non-use of safety belts. The police are aware that campaigns enlarge the repressive effects on road users.

Fig. 5 Motion of fines and police reports with motion of number of traffic accidents and their consequences


The second part of the general strategy of enforcement has decentralised character. In this way police units at the local level have free hands in planning and implementing other police repressive and preventive measures except in the cases of speed, drunk driving and using safety belts. They must accommodate their activity to typical road safety problems in their local areas. Heads of local police stations have an obligation to analyse, plan and implement police safety measures to prevent the offences of wrong overtaking, failure to give way, passing and changing lanes, wrong position on the road, driving through pedestrian crossings and other offences. The differences between the first and the second part of strategy in planing, evolution and implementation are very big.

The estimating efficiency of an individual police officer is based on the weight of the detected offence according to the scale of traffic accident causes and not to the numbers of detected offences, as in the cases of speed, using safety belts and drunk driving measures.

Centralised and decentralised parts of traffic police measures represent for the individual policeman his decision between some kind of automatic control with emphasise on the number of detected offences, and his personal initiative, ingenuity, creativity and patience. Centralisation causes mental laziness, acceptation of characteristics similar to that of automatic machines and suppression of professional challenges. Ingenuity, creativity and patience are characteristics which ensure a policeman's individual development and the development of the police profession as a whole.

General social circumstances and circumstances in the road safety field demand the right mixture of the first and the second part of the strategy.


Police surveillance is therefore an important tool in accident contra measures. The probability of police detection of most violations is low. In spite of a lack of information about police control activities influence on the bettering of road safety circumstances we can assertion that the increasing of police selective control activities in the last year has had a positive influence on road safety circumstances. Total safety on roads is a great illusion, but better safety is a realistic desire and expectation. Manpower limitations do not allow required probability of detection to be maintained. Systematic application of effective surveillance strategies can considerably increase the impact of surveillance, but the impact is limited.

Electronic development creates new possibilities in traffic surveillance. Different electronic devices from developing in-vehicle and on-site systems will slowly join a lonely policeman in the surveillance field. Until that time police must care alone for improving the quality of surveillance activities. The police can't be satisfied only by new devices for detecting traffic offenders, with the rising of police repressive measures and with her small preventive actions.

Continual education and training of policemen can increase their impact on road safety circumstances and that is a potential which hasn't yet been used well.

I believe that today's exaggerated stress on the function of police control and neglecting the important role of other organisations which must also be more involved in the common road safety process will shortly become history. Until that new time, we will restrain from looking at the different consequences of the "lone rider syndrome".


  1. The Slovene Ministry of Transport has been preparing a complex transport policy for many years, but we haven't yet got it. Slovenia ratified The European association agreement and it started to fulfil the highway program without a finished national transport policy. A Swiss- German advisory company has made a Transport master plan of Slovenia as of 1996 .
  2. Run Elvik in her paper, " Quantified road safety targets: A useful tool for policy making'" found that lowered speed limits on less then 10% of the road system did not lead to reduce mobility.
  3. In a new Slovene proposal of Road Traffic Act is not allowed to exceed speed 130 km/h on motor ways. In a present Road Traffic act is not allowed to exceed speed 120 km/h on this kind of roads.
  4. Some European ministries of transport with their divisions for road safety perform these kind of tasks.
  5. Participants from different Ministries made a proposal for the national road safety program in May, 1996. This program proposal was made without the participation of the Ministry of Finance. The main value of proposal is in list of needs without a scale of priority which must be made on a cost- benefit basis and on different analyses.
  6. Article nr. 9, Law of Organisation and Working Scopes of Ministries, Uradni list Republike Slovenije, št. 71-2546/94, November 1994.
  7. Traffic department got 77 cases of such complaints in 1995.
  8. 262 driving schools operate in Slovenia. Driving examinations are held in 17 examination centres. The numbers of driving schools are too big when we compare them with the number of candidates (about 40 000 candidates pass the driving exam per year) . The competition between driving schools has many different consequences. That is evident in an unlawfully shortened educational programs, in fictive executing educational process about traffic regulations, etc..
  9. Five driving schools were temporarily interdicted in their activity in 1995.
  10. The vehicles for public transport, drivers training, ambulances, as well as vehicles and trailers for transport of dangerous goods must be inspected every six months. Upon 860.000 implemented inspections of motor vehicles and trailers in 1995, 222.274 vehicles and trailers were removed from the roads. 110.482 on account of lighting faults, 99.952 braking systems, 73.493 owing to faults on control systems and 44.408 owing to faults on tyres.
  11. The traffic department implemented 65 controls of enterprises and local administrative authorities from the field of vehicle inspections and registrations in 1995.
  12. The Traffic Department decreased 58 permits for sport entertainment on public roads and they implemented six inspections in 1995. Policemen from local police stations make inspect road safety aspects in all cases of entertainment on public roads from their local competences.
  13. Speed has a long tradition of being in first place on the scale of traffic accident causes. The conclusions drawn from the analysed contents of old Slovene newspapers show that speed and alcohol induced accidents have been number one cause for road accidents in Slovenia for more than 100 yrs..(Ferlinc, 1990).

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