Traffic safety in Armenia has improved this year, with the number of both road accidents and deaths caused by them falling significantly, police said on Tuesday.
Colonel Markar Ohanian, chief of the national road police, said 324 people were killed in car crashes and other accidents registered across the country. The figure represents a 20 percent decrease from the official death toll reported last year.
Ohanian said the overall number of road accidents was similarly down by around 10 percent at 1,978 in 2009. “This is the result of the day-to-day work of the road police,” he told journalists.
Ohanian specifically noted a stricter enforcement of fines and other sanctions for the violation of traffic rules that were sharply toughened two years ago.
In particular, the police launched in August a successful crackdown on the widespread and long-standing non-use of safety belts by Armenian motorists. They had for decades essentially turned a blind eye to the practice.
The crackdown began one week after the government approved a five-year plan to make roads safer for car drivers and pedestrians. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian singled out seat belt use as a key element of that plan.
Ohanian claimed that traffic safety improved also because the road police have become less tolerant of corruption within their ranks, firing 30 officers and taking disciplinary action against 75 others in the course of the year.
“We too have noticed our shortcomings and presented them to the police chief. The work of road police employees is under daily oversight,” he said. He argued in particular that every police car is now equipped with a global positioning system that allows police chiefs to track its movements in any part of Armenia.