The FINANCIAL — Neither driver nor pedestrian can be blamed in a traffic accident. The only responsible body is the government that has imposed weak legislation, believes an expert from TRACECA. Based on the experience of different European countries, the new tougher regulations recently initiated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, are considered a step forward in reducing road accidents.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia has recently introduced a new programme outlining amendments to current legislation to reduce the number of road accidents and address the main reasons for such incidents, including speeding, drink driving and incorrect manoeuvring.
The programme also offered improved control on public buses; encouraged the gradual upgrading of older cars nationwide; introducing off-site patrolling via surveillance cameras; restricting registration of new imported right-hand drive vehicles; refining of legislation for pedestrian safety; introducing a new demerit points system for all drivers; and, practical driving tests that include road driving instead of only in carparks, which is currently the norm.
Last week The FINANCIAL spoke with Dusan Mladenovic, Assistant Professor at TRACECA and asked him to provide his assessment regarding the new regulations which have caused some discontent among a part of Georgian society. TRACECA is the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) promoting the development of regional transport dialogue and ensuring the efficient and reliable Euro-Asian transport links, promoting the regional economy on the whole.
“I was walking in the streets in Georgia in order to find out what the traffic is like in your country. To be honest, I do not feel safe here. The issue is that neither pedestrians nor drivers are following the traffic rules. From 2004 the number of vehicles in Georgia has tripled. The number has grown from 300,000 to a million during these ten years. The awareness of Georgians regarding traffic is still quite low. Vehicles are the main killer of people globally. Serbia was facing the same problem in 2001. We had 7 million inhabitants and the number of vehicles was around 2 million. 1,275 people died that year in traffic accidents. The Serbian Government tried to take some decisions in order to solve these problems. Last year the number of traffic victims was 536. After 14 years of active changes in the law, rules and punishment penalties we have between five to six people who die per every one hundred thousand citizens. The number equals EU standards,” Mladenovic told The FINANCIAL.
Mladenovic came to Georgia from Serbia. He is an assistant professor at Belgrade University’s traffic and transport faculty. He was invited to Georgia as a consultant by a French company. The company prepared a study regarding road safety. Mladenovic is responsible for vehicle safety, its technical inspection and regulation in this part of the project. He was previously Deputy Minister of Transport in the Serbian Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications.
In Mladenovic’s words, the main problem in Georgia is its very old fleet of vehicles. “50% of vehicles are older than 20 years. The country does not have any kind of control. You have no vehicle inspection system. 60% of vehicles in Georgia are in a bad condition.”
The main topic of discussion in Georgia recently became right and left-hand drive vehicles, ever since the Government decided to ban the import of right-hand drive vehicles. “Right-hand drive vehicles were constructed for left-hand traffic and left-hand drive cars were constructed for right-hand traffic. 75% of countries drive on the right-hand side globally. Technically speaking it is not possible to adapt left-hand vehicles to right-hand safely. Over 530 people die in traffic accidents in Georgia. For a country with less than 4 million inhabitants this is a very high level. We shouldn’t blame it on drivers but on the Government. They are responsible for it. In Serbia it is not prohibited to import right-hand drive vehicles. However, no one ever imports them as we have right-hand traffic. In Georgia the number of imported right-hand drive vehicles has been increasing from year to year,” Mladenovic said.
“We used to say people drive, people die. But when we look at the data of traffic victims in different countries, which varies greatly, we can conclude that something is different there. In this regard, Georgia needs to improve its legislation, punishment system, educate people, and raise awareness. I once observed an old lady, aged over 70, who crossed the street in Tbilisi without even looking around her,” he added.
According to Mladenovic, in Serbia there are three levels of punishment. “If a person drives under the influence of alcohol the fine is no less than EUR 200. In addition, their driving license is confiscated for three months. The third punishment is losing six points, out of a total of 18 points on one’s license.”
“Georgia is the only market open for right-hand drive vehicles in this area. So, if this prohibition would not have been taken, you would have more than 60% of such vehicles in a 5 year term. In this case the only solution would be to change the line. Mixing right and left hand lines is impossible. Canada used to have it for a very short time,” he said.
“With its new regulation Georgia is on the right path towards road safety. However, putting new laws into force immediately is not important. You can give time to your citizens to adapt to them and explain the necessity of it,” Mladenovic told The FINANCIAL.