By Atom Margarian
According to a study done by the Armenian Association to Defend Drivers’ Rights – Akilles- Armenian drivers have an unwavering habit of breaking traffic laws and the traffic police are notorious in collecting bribes to let drivers walk away from a fine.
The study was done involving 500 drivers who said that in the preceding six months they were stopped approximately 4,500 times by the traffic police and in %98 of cases the encounter ended in the payment of a one to two US dollar bribe or sometimes a higher amount. The drivers believe that in %68 of cases there was no violation. In their view traffic police routinely stop people just hoping to get some money, threatening a summons, which ultimately would be costlier for the driver in terms of both time and money.
Asked as to who starts the discussion leading to a bribe, drivers said that in %44 of cases it is the police who ask for a pay-off, while the drivers themselves offer bribes in %32 of cases, just to avoid the legal process of a summons.
The head of the Motor Vehicle Administration Margar Ohanian told RFE/RL that almost everyone routinely breaks traffic laws and the police should not be blamed for frequently stopping drivers.
The Motor Vehicle Administration in Armenia employs about 350 traffic cops, a number which is completely inadequate for properly enforcing traffic laws, according to Ohanian.
According to drivers and the president of “Akilles”, when a bribe is not paid, traffic cops usually confiscate the driver’s license, a measure reserved for extreme cases according to the law. As drivers attempt to go through legal processes and reclaim their licenses, authorities continue to violate the law every step of the way, making a traffic violation a costly misstep by an ordinary citizen. Even in cases when courts have issued verdicts to return driving licenses to drivers, the authorities have resisted the decision by delaying tactics.
It is interesting that %70 of drivers who participated in the survey admitted that they do not fully know traffic regulations. This contributes to illegal actions by law enforcement officers. However, one question remains unanswered. How could people who do not know traffic regulations obtain driving licenses. Here also the culprit is most probably corruption.