Auto insurance covering physical damage caused to other cars and individuals became mandatory in the country on January 1, in accordance with a government-drafted law passed by the Armenian parliament last year.
The process got off to a slow start in mid-October, with many car owners complaining about what they see as disproportionately high insurance fees set by the Armenian Central Bank for all local car insurers. Most motorists have to pay 25,000 drams ($70) or 32,000 drams each year.
According to Vahan Avetisian, the executive director of the Auto Insurance Bureau, only about 230,000 of 430,000 or so vehicles registered in Armenia were covered by insurance as of Tuesday. He said more than 20,000 car owners have applied for a temporary exemption from the requirement allowed by the law.
They will have to deposit their license plates with the road police and will be allowed to drive their cars for up to three months a year.
Avetisian was confident that the remaining uninsured motorists will purchase insurance policies in the coming weeks. “I think that we will have a full coverage by the beginning of February,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Under the law, drivers caught not possessing such policies are to be fined 50,000 drams. Colonel Norik Sargsian, a senior traffic police official, said on Wednesday that the police have already started slapping the fines but declined to give any numbers. “We are obliged to enforce the law,” he told a news conference.
According to Avetisian, insurance firms have been formally notified of about 600 traffic accidents involving their clients since the beginning of the year. “About 20-25 percent of those involved in these accidents have already applied to insurance firms for compensation,” he said.
The traffic police normally register and investigate serious accidents killing or injuring people. Sargsian said there have been 61 such cases so far this month. They left five people dead and more than a hundred others injured, he added.