Russia has a road safety problem, and it is doing something about it by reducing the number of drivers on the road. While not the most nuanced approach, statistically speaking the move sort of checks out. The country’s chosen criteria for paring down the number of licensed drivers, on the other hand, is as illogical as it is appalling. According to the BBC, the notoriously anti-gay and discriminatory state has decided to ban transsexuals, those with “sexual disorders,” and a host of other people from obtaining drivers’ licenses. Problem solved?
Skill—or the lack of it—should be the only arbiter when it comes to determining who deserves the privilege of handling a vehicle. Russia’s attempt at legislating its way out of a spiraling road-safety problem is little more than bigotry, a deployment of a politically popular conservative Russian ideology targeting a minority group who clearly aren’t the root cause of traffic accidents. No doubt Russian lawmakers are hoping to gain points for the appearance of pro-safety action while also notching a win with the seemingly massive number of intolerant Russians.
Besides transsexuals, anyone with a rash of “mental disorders” that includes such not-mental disorders as fetishism, exhibitionism, pathological gambling, and kleptomania. (The World Health Organization classifies these as “impulse” and “sexual” disorders.) You don’t need us to explain that these proclivities have very, very little to absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the operation of a motor vehicle. Intriguingly, Russia’s driving ban also covers “voyeurism;” it isn’t presently clear how this article of the government’s driving order jibes with Russians’ widespread use of dash cams.
While the Russian law positively drips with discrimination, it isn’t as if the nation woke up one day and realized it was suffering too many traffic-related deaths—estimated at around 30,000 people per year—and went in search of someone to pin it on. Only just signed into law, the bill arrives at a particularly difficult time for Russia’s government. Those low gas prices everyone here is dancing about? They’re pinning Russia’s fossil-fuel-dependent economy to a wall. Blaming an unpopular problem on an unpopular minority is an easy “win” for a country bent on distracting its people from bigger problems. Ironically, the those larger problems, including the tumbling value of the Russian ruble, might have the ultimate limiting effect on the pool of drivers: Automakers recently suspended Russian Sales until the financial climate improves.