More than 300 people die from road traffic accidents in Armenia every year. The government has declared that it is reviewing its road safety policy with a focus on preventing deaths and serious injuries.
It was announced by then Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures, Suren Papikyan, back in April 2021, at the launch of the national communication campaign “Safety is in your actions” jointly implemented with the support of the EU and the European Investment Bank.
He informed that particularly the new “Vision Zero” and “Safe System Approach” road safety strategy for 2021-2040 would be adopted in the near future.
At the government session on January 26 of this year, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that in 2022 there was a visible improvement in road traffic accident statistics, it was recorded that in 2019-2022 the number of road traffic accidents, casualties and injured mostly decreased in 2022.
Fact Investigation Platform tried to analyze whether the change compared to what was expected is tangible, what trends in accidents have been recorded, what the threats to traffic safety are, what steps have been taken and in what stage the development of the new road safety strategy announced about two years ago and supposed to be adopted “in the near future” is.
In the last 10 years, with the exception of Covid year of 2020, the number of road traffic accidents and deaths caused by them has continuously increased. Only in 2022, the death rate decreased by 14% compared to the previous year.
Thus, in 2022, the number of road traffic accidents was 4308, of which 321 people died, and 6153 were taken to the hospital with various physical injuries.
In 2021, the total number of road accidents was 4604, of which 368 deaths were recorded and 6699 injured.
In 2020, the number of road traffic accidents decreased significantly, which was probably due to restrictions on movement in the territory of Armenia due to the pandemic. 4016 cases were recorded, of which 348 resulted in death, and 5846 citizens were injured.
In 2019, the number of road traffic accidents was 4799: 341 deaths, 6801 injured.
In 2018: 4111 accidents – 343 deaths, 5950 injuries.
In 2017: 3535 accidents – 279 deaths, 5179 injuries.
In 2016: 3203 accidents – 267 deaths, 4451 injuries.
In 2015: 3399 accidents -346 deaths, 4738 injuries.
In 2014: 3156 accidents – 297 deaths, 4479 injuries.
In 2013, 2824 accidents – 316 deaths, 3994 injuries.
It should be noted that according to the latest data published by the World Bank in 2019, Armenia has recorded a high road traffic accident death rate of 20 deaths per 100,000 residents. This rate is the worst in the European and EAEU regions, and among the neighboring countries, only Iran exceeds Armenia.
According to the data of the World Health Organization (WHO), Armenia recorded 17.47 road traffic deaths per 100,000 residents in 2020.
The increase in the number of accidents is also due to the increase in the number of vehicles in use
According to the data of the electronic register of the Road Police service, the number of vehicles with operating status has increased by about 40 percent in the last 10 years. If the number of vehicles in the country was 528,643 in 2013, the number of operating vehicles as of December 31, 2022, it was 888,110.
It is noteworthy that the number of vehicles registered in neighboring Georgia in 2021 was 1 million 490 thousand 200 for a population of 3 million 709 thousand. Although the number of cars is more in Georgia, the number of deaths due to road traffic accidents is significantly less than in Armenia. According to the World Health Organization’s latest 2020 data, 11.30 road traffic deaths per 100,000 residents were registered in Georgia. With a population of 2.6 million, Moldova has relatively more registered vehicles than Armenia, 1,008,204, but the number of deaths per 100,000 residents is several times lower than in Armenia – 6.60.
Mongolia is one of the countries comparable to Armenia in terms of the number of cars, population and deaths caused by road traffic accidents, where the number of registered cars in 2021 was 723,214, the total population is 3.3 million, and the number of accident casualties per 100,000 residents is 21.50.
The road traffic safety strategy promised “in the near future” is “close to approval” 2 years later
Poghos Shahinyan, the head of the National Road Safety Council, who is a member of the road traffic safety strategy development group, mentioned in a conversation with FIP.am that the preliminary work has been completed and the government will probably approve the strategy in March.
According to Shahinyan, the first road traffic safety strategy in Armenia was adopted in 2009, its term expired in 2013. “The implementation of the strategy was entrusted to the National Road Safety Council, which was supposed to consolidate the actions of all agencies. In the first year after the adoption, the indicators were quite good. The number of casualties due to car accidents decreased by 20 percent. After that, up to date, we do not have an effective strategy. Now a new strategy has been developed which has adopted the vision zero,” he said.
FIP.am was told by the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure that March is realistic to finalize the strategy, but additional one or two months will be required for final approval.
Reference: Vision Zero is a global movement to end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by taking a systemic approach to road safety. The premise of this strategy is that road deaths and injuries are unacceptable and preventable. First implemented as the national road policy in Sweden in 1997, Vision Zero has now been adopted by more than 20 cities around the world.
In the 14 years between 2006 and 2020, road traffic fatalities in Sweden more than halved. With a population of 10.4 million, Sweden had the lowest number of such fatalities in 2020, at 206. Moreover, the number of motor vehicles in the country is continuously increasing. Sweden is in the top five countries with the safest traffic every year.
“There is no international standard in Armenia”
According to Poghos Shahinyan, it is planned to create a separate body that will be fully responsible for all road safety issues.
“There should be clear standards. the reality of Armenia and the international targets adopted by the United Nations were considered. The strategy is based on the fact that a person can make a mistake, but it should not be translated into serious consequences. In other words, attention should be paid to infrastructural issues: safe road, car quality, road equipment according to international standards. Unfortunately, there is no international standard in Armenia. It just took a long time for the approval, but it’s better late than never,” says Shahinyan.
And the expert supposedly attributes the certain trend of decrease to the new Patrol Service and certain improvement in the condition of the roads.
A decrease in the number of road traffic accidents – the result of Patrol Service?
It is noteworthy that in 2022, the number of decisions on imposing an administrative fine for violating traffic rules increased by about 34 percent compared to 2018, from 1,644,502 to 2,209,551.
Thus, according to the data provided by the police, in 2022, 2,209,551 decisions were made to impose administrative fines for violating traffic rules, of which 1,706,268 were detected by means of video recording or photo capturing devices, 503,283 by Road Patrol Service units.
11,038 or 2.2% of the violations recorded by the Road Patrol Service units are for driving while intoxicated, and 50,131 or 10.0% for driving without seat belts, the rest are for other violations.
In 2021, 2,312,476 decisions on imposing administrative fines for violating traffic rules were made, of which 395,677 were issued by Road Patrol Service units. Of the violations recorded by the Road Patrol Service units, 6,621 or 1.7% were for driving while intoxicated, 54,471 or 13.8% for driving without seat belts, and the rest for other violations.
In 2020, 1,717,869 decisions were made, of which 350,943 were made by Road Patrol Service units. Of the recorded violations, 4,566 or 1.3% were related to driving while intoxicated, 64,479 or 18.4% were related to driving without seat belts, and the rest were related to other violations.
In 2019, 1,959,170 decisions were made, of which 428,000 were made by Road Patrol Service units. Of the recorded violations, 4,803 or 1.1% were for driving while intoxicated, 201,316 or 47.0% were for driving without seat belts, and the rest for other violations.
In 2018, 1,644,502 decisions were made, of which 298,271 were made by Road Patrol Service units. Of the recorded violations, 4,739 or 1.6% were for driving while intoxicated, 126,645 or 42.5% for driving without seat belts, and the rest for other violations.
Measures aimed at preventing road traffic safety threats
In December, 2019, the package of bills for the introduction of the point system for drivers was adopted. According to the authors of the bill, the number one goal of introducing a points system for fines for traffic violations is to reduce fatalities.
However, the statistics presented above show that this change did not have the desired outcome, as in 2019 there were 341 deaths from road traffic accidents, in 2020 – 348, and in 2021 the number of deaths reached 368. As we mentioned, the number of deaths decreased to a certain extent only in 2022 being 321.