Road safety in Armenia has continued to improve in 2010, with the number of both road accidents and deaths caused by them falling further, police said on Wednesday.
According to the latest official figures presented by the chief of the national traffic police, Colonel Margar Ohanian, 289 people were killed in car crashes and other accidents across the country, down from 325 such cases reported last year. The police reported a 20 percent drop in fatalities in 2009.
Ohanian said the number of Armenians injured in traffic accidents dropped by over 4 percent to about 2,500 in 2010. The overall number of such accidents was similarly down by about 3 percent, at just over 2000.
Ohanian attributed the improving statistics to a stricter enforcement of fines and other sanctions for the violation of traffic rules, which were significantly toughened by the Armenian authorities two years ago.
Most notably, the police launched in August 2009 what proved to be a successful crackdown on the widespread and long-standing non-use of safety belts by Armenian motorists. They also began fining pedestrians crossing streets in unauthorized locations. The police had for decades turned a blind eye to these practices.
The 2009 crackdown began one week after the Armenian government approved a five-year plan to make roads safer for car drivers and pedestrians. Government officials singled out seat belt use as a key element of that plan.
Ohanian claimed that owners of luxury cars, notorious for reckless driving, no longer get away with brazen traffic violations and are now far more law-abiding. Ordinary Armenians also deserve credit for that, he said.
“There are violations committed unintentionally, and there are violations committed deliberately,” the police chief told a news conference. “We have reached a point where the population doesn’t encourage the deliberate offenders. That is, people don’t perceive [such drivers] as good guys.”
Ohanian warned that the police will get tougher on drunk-driving, which traditionally becomes widespread during the New Year and Christmas celebrations in the country. “We must not allow a repeat of last January’s sad statistics,” he said.
The official further announced that the road police will receive and install video cameras on key road junctions in and outside Yerevan next year. He said that will not only improve road safety further but also “minimize contact” between drivers and traffic police officers.