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Government approved National Transportation Safety strategy pushes forward with car seat belts
Hundreds of drivers in capital Yerevan were pulled off to the sidewalks and fined by the police this week for not fastening their car seatbelts. The large-scale police operation was widely covered prime-time by Public TV of Armenia. The capital had changed beyond recognition next day – 90% of drivers were wearing their safety belts.
The campaign to enforce safety-belt usage in Yerevan and around the country came days after the adoption of Armenia’s National Traffic Safety strategy and 5 year action plan at the government session on August 13, 2009.
“Human casualty rates on roads in Armenia exceed other countries’ rates by several times. The main reason for that is because we don’t observe safety regulations,” Prime Minister Tigran Sargsian said at the government session, calling for strict action by the police to enforce the rules especially as regards safety belt use.
The RA Law on Ensuring Traffic Safety adopted in June 2005 envisages a fine for not wearing a safety belt. Further modifications to the law have further increased the size of the fine, which is now equal to 5 thousand Armenian drams (about $14 US). The police have in the past implemented short-term operations to enforce the use of safety belts, but failure to be persistent and habitual dislike of car seatbelts by the majority of drivers has turned the law into an array of empty words.
Drivers note several reasons for not wanting to wear their seat belts in Armenia: the distances are short; many drive old Soviet-made cars which either lack seat-belts or have very inconvenient ones.
Fear of being laughed at by other drivers is another reason. Prime Minister Sargsian made a point of the attitude, that it is uncool to wear seat-belts in his speech at the government session: “We have to overcome that psychological complex in us. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if the driver uses a safety belt.”
Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Hrant Beglarian says everything will be different this time. The new measures are put in place as part of the 5 year program funded by the World Bank which will invest $10 million US to implement it.
”Prime Minister’s initiative to force drivers use safety belts constitutes only 1/100th part of all the activities planned under this project,” Beglarian said.
Other activities include establishment of a Traffic Safety Council, implementation of a 5 year plan to enforce road safety regulations, including police action against speeders, defiant drivers refusing to use safety belts, car safety checkups and more.
Meanwhile, most drivers buckle-up, not wanting to get fined, still sure that police crackdown will stop soon.
Number of traffic accidents has risen by 10% over the past 5 years. 2202 traffic accidents were registered in 2008, which caused the death of 407 people. 3125 were injured. With the newly launched program the government expects to reverse the negative trend and reduce the number of traffic accidents causing fatalities by 10 percent.