The FINANCIAL -- Approximately 600 people were killed and 8,000 more injured on Georgia’s roads in 2013, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. To reduce road traffic accidents and improve road safety conditions in Georgia, Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads is starting activities to raise awareness in society within the framework of the UN Global Road Safety Week.
Street actions with the participation of students, the distribution of brochures and stickers, broadcast of a promotional video via TV channels and social media, and road safety seminars and workshops for pupils are the first activities which will soon start in Georgia, as a lack of awareness has been cited as the major problem causing so many car accidents in the country. The trend can only be reversed through the joint and deliberate efforts of the government, civil society and private sector.
“94 percent of the accidents in the world including in Georgia happen due to human factors, like speeding or drunk driving,” said Maya Kobalia, Executive Director of the Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads. “Death is not the only possible result of car accidents, but many people who survive them are left disabled or scarred. The solution to this terrible situation is to raise people’s awareness from very early ages. We have therefore started a new project with one of the non-governmental organizations of Estonia. The project aims to meet with youths and explain to them the dangers of not obeying the rules. Meetings with young people and with schoolchildren will be held in ten schools of Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi and Gori,” she added.
Road safety is already included in the national curriculum, according to Lia Gigauri, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Georgia. “For fourth graders it is taught along with Civil Defence and for eleventh graders - it is an independent subject. We will pay more attention to educating schoolchildren about the importance of road safety,” she said.
“Georgia is signing an Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU. Road safety is one of the areas in implementing EU regulations and directives,” said Pritt Turk, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia. “In Estonia, we have applied many of these regulations, which might seem slightly annoying in one’s everyday life, but were vital to implement. By Estonia trying to meet the regulations the number of accidents and number of deaths on the road decreased by half. This is a huge result. However, nothing has been changed by the regulations themselves as it is all about the attitude. It is about how people and society relate to this issue. For young people, especially in the schools, it is very important to give them information about how to drive properly and how to be a part of road traffic. When we invest more in the young generation, I think it is the best investment. If Estonia has something to share, we are extremely happy to do it for Georgia,” he added.
“Georgia partly implements the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and follows a road safety strategy,” said Zurab Utiashvili, Head of the Emergency Coordination and Regime Department at the Ministry of Health. “The upcoming projects include improvement of the infrastructure of the highways and road surface, upgrading public transport, as well as improving the equipment in ambulances. The changes have already been submitted to the law which limit car speed and alcohol levels in the blood. It is forbidden to talk on a mobile phone while driving now. Everyone must wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcycle as well. Also, when taking children by car, it is obligatory to have a special age-appropriate child’s car seat for them. After introducing these changes to the legislation, Georgia got better results in the report which was conducted by the WHO in 2013. The number of car accidents had reduced 10 times in Georgia in 2013 compared to 2008. Also, the number of people injured decreased by 15 percent and the number of people that died - by 40 percent. A total of 8,861 injured patients were registered in hospitals in 2012. 36 percent of them were due to car accidents. Out of the numbers of injured people, men made up the majority,” he added.
“Georgia has had the experience of considerable economic growth,” said Hans Horbach, Ambassador of the Netherlands. “If we compare the number of cars here to the situation in the early ‘90s, we will see a huge difference. Traffic jams have increased as well. Georgia continues to experience a significant fatality rate in traffic, however. At present the traffic fatality rate in Georgia stands at 15.8 per 1,000 inhabitants. If we compare it to the Netherlands, there it is 3.9. There is obvious willingness and commitment of policy and decision makers to improve the safety situation on the roads in this country. It is not only about introducing new policies or new structures, new regulations, it is also a matter of changing behaviour and raising awareness of all traffic participants and convincing them that it is important to respect the law and to respect each other. This is an individual task for everybody who is driving or walking on the streets of Tbilisi and throughout the whole country,” said Horbach.
“The Netherlands is a small country. Yet, we have almost 70 million inhabitants. The roads there are considered some of the safest in the world. But it was not always like that. Just over 30 years ago 3,200 Dutch citizens died each year on our roads, and about 25 percent were pedestrians. All cities were challenged to cope with the ever increasing numbers of cars and other means of transport. In response to this dilemma the Dutch developed and implemented a major national campaign over the last three decades called sustainable safety. We started to better manage and plan our cities and our traffic routes. As a result the number of traffic deaths was reduced dramatically. 650 people died in traffic accidents in 2012. It is a huge decrease, of more than 80 percent if we compare it to the early ‘70s,” Horbach said.
Increased numbers of cars in Georgia has led to worsening air pollution, according to Shalva Amirejibi, Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia. Also, the low quality of transportation in Georgia leads to environmental problems in the country, he says.
“The main source of air pollution in Georgia is precisely transport emissions. In the last decade the number of cars has doubled and there are 900,000 cars in Georgia today. 40 percent of cars are located in Tbilisi. We have designed a promotional programme to reduce environmental pollution. Within the framework of this programme the renewal of Georgia’s cars is planned, to optimize traffic flow management and the development of public transport,” said Amirejibi.
The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia allocates 60 percent of its budget to developing and modernizing roads in Georgia in accordance with European standards, according to Giorgi Amashukeli, the Deputy Minister.