The number of road traffic accidents in Armenia continued to grow rapidly in 2019, resulting in at least 335 deaths, police data shows.
The Armenian police recorded a total of 4,715 accidents from January 1 through December 26, up by around 15 percent from 2018.
The number of road casualties was slightly higher in 2018: 343. Still, the number of people injured in accidents soared from 5,950 to 6,678, according to the official statistics.
The 2018 road deaths were up by as much as 23 percent compared with 2017. The police also reported a more than 16 percent surge in overall car accidents at the time.
Sergey Ghahramanian, the co-founder of the Driver’s Friend non-governmental organization, blamed this statistics on an increased number of cars, more lenient policing and the easing of traffic fines which Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government initiated after taking office during the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.”
“The number of cars has nearly doubled in the last three years,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday. “This has sharply increased the density of cars on the roads.”
Also, Ghahramanian said, reckless driving in Armenia has become more widespread since the revolution led by Pashinian.
“In the past some types of [traffic rule] violation were [typically] committed at 3 am or 4 am, but now, after 2018, they may also do that at 3 pm or 4 pm,” he said. “That is to say that before the events of 2018, drivers were more cautious.”
During the revolution and in the immediate aftermath of it, Pashinian repeatedly lambasted Armenia’s former government for aggressively enforcing traffic rules with fines. His government forgave thousands of car owners that had refused to pay such fines imposed on them in previous months and years. It also reduced most of the legal penalties for traffic violations.
Faced with deteriorating road safety, the government opted in 2019 for a toughening of the traffic rules. Under a government bill passed by the parliament in December, unruly motorists will now risk not only fines but also points deductions that could result in the suspension of their driving licenses and even prosecution.
Ghahramanian welcomed the introduction of the so-called “credit system” which will start already in January. “The fact that they could lose their driving license through its suspension or revocation alone should make drivers sober up,” he said.