According to the latest figures from the national road police, 117 people were killed in car crashes and other accidents across the country in the first half of 2010, down from 150 such cases reported during the same period of last year. The police had reported a 20 percent drop in fatalities in 2009.
The number of people injured in first-half accidents was similarly down from 1,217 to 1,152. There were also fewer accidents this year, the police data show.
Norik Sargsian, a senior road police official who presented the figures, attributed the downward trend 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. “It is as a result of this work done by all of us that the number of accidents and casualties has decreased,” he told journalists.
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 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.
In Sargsian’s words, the police registered a total of over 352,000 traffic violations in the first half of 2010, up by 15 percent year on year. In particular, he said, they fined more than 62,000 drivers who did not wear seat belts and some 15,000 pedestrians who ignored zebra crossings.
“Stopping and fining 15,000 pedestrians is not that easy,” said the official. “If you think it is very easy, let’s go out together now, find a couple of delinquent pedestrians and start fining them and you will see what happens next.”