By Anna Saghabalian
Police reported on Tuesday a major increase in the number of car accidents in Armenia, blaming it on increasingly heavy traffic in the country.
Colonel Ishkhan Ishkhanian, chief of the Armenian traffic police, put the death from the nearly 800 accidents registered during the first half of this year at 139, up by 23 percent from the same period last year. He said the number of people injured as a result jumped by nearly 40 percent to 1,140.
The police had registered just over 600 accidents across the country in January-June 2006.
Ishkhanian said they believe the main cause of the almost 31 percent surge in accidents is a rapidly growing number of cars and trucks on Armenian roads. According to official statistics cited by him, some 25,000 vehicles were imported to Armenia in the course of 2006 and another 16,000 in the first half of 2007, raising their total number to roughly 350,000.
Increased car sales are particularly visible in Yerevan where traffic jams are becoming an increasingly serious problem. Many motorists feel that the reputedly corrupt traffic police are also to blame for the traffic jams.
The recently restructured traffic police have always denied that bribery and other corrupt practices among their officers are widespread. In Ishkhanian’s words, only one officer has been prosecuted and three others fired for bribery this year.
(Photolur photo: Ishkhan Ishkhanian.)