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Intersections: Improving traffic safety in Armenia

June 15, 2011|By Liana Aghajanian


Reporting from Yerevan — A few years ago, walking and driving on the streets of Armenia's capital Yerevan was downright dangerous. A small city with heavy foot traffic and a relentless army of taxis, cars and vans, it lacked enforcement of traffic rules and proper street signage.

Now, with the creation of the National Road Safety Council of Armenia, a non-governmental organization that works to implement change and raise awareness in road safety, Yerevan's streets have vastly improved, leading to a reduction in the number of fatal accidents from 407 in 2008 to 275 in 2010 — and perhaps coincidentally, lowered blood pressure rates of residents and tourists who engaged in a game of Russian roulette every time they wanted to cross the street.

The success, according to road safety council founder Poghos Shahinyan, can be attributed to combined efforts of a number of different initiatives, including enforcement of seat belts, the introduction of countdown pedestrian crossing clocks, education in schools and new technology used by law enforcement.

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“Armenia was accepted by the international community as successful in adopting a national road safety strategy,” Shahinyan said.

The landlocked South Caucasus country was also considered to be a model in road safety from post-Soviet countries, according to road safety council public relations specialist Naira Karapetyan.

“No one thinks that Armenia can change, but we did it,” she said.

The introduction of zebra-stripe crossings and traffic regulations, including fines for pedestrians and drivers, has led residents to become more aware of their surroundings.

“People are more organized; they wait until the green signs appear,” said Nelly, a 23-year-old Yerevan resident who would only give her first name. “In comparison with the past three years, I would even say that pedestrians are more self-organized than the drivers.”

In order to effect change early on, the National Road Safety Council of Armenia strategy has included road safety education in the classroom, where the organization works with children in 60 schools.

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