Notes From Hairenik
An article that I wrote as an exclusive for the Armenian Weekly was just published in the paper's print edition. Here are some excerpts from the article:

The number of registered vehicles on Armenia’s roads is kept secret by government authorities. However, the unofficial estimated figure is around 350,000. By contrast, the number of motor vehicles per 1,000 people was 1.5 in 1997, according to the World Bank Database.

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Last month the Yerevan municipality decided to undertake a massive operation aimed at curbing traffic pile-ups. The measure has actually worsened the situation, forcing minibus drivers to travel against oncoming traffic on some one-way streets, Hanrabedutian Street in particular, which is narrowed at one end by construction projects and by parallel parked cars on the other.

As part of the plan, three underground passages are being constructed simultaneously at strategic areas in Central Yerevan, indefinitely impeding vehicle access. As a result the intersection of Tigran Mets and Khanjian Boulevards, one of the busiest crossroads in the city featuring an extremely large shopping complex and a bus station sending travelers to northern regions of the country throughout the day, is blocked to traffic. Instead an insufficient detour has been routed causing further bottlenecks.

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According to a study by Princeton University’s International Networks Archive, Armenia has been rated the most dangerous country for driving in the world, with an estimated 347 people killed or wounded for every 1,000 vehicles. By comparison, 16 people are injured or killed in the United States for that same number of vehicles.

Click on the image to view and read the article as it appeared in print.

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3 Comments:
Blogger Christian Garbis said...
This just in from ArmeniaLiberty.org:

Police Report Surge In 2007 Car Accidents
By Anna Saghabalian

Police reported on Tuesday a major increase in the number of car accidents in Armenia, blaming it on increasingly heavy traffic in the country.

Colonel Ishkhan Ishkhanian, chief of the Armenian traffic police, put the death from the nearly 800 accidents registered during the first half of this year at 139, up by 23 percent from the same period last year. He said the number of people injured as a result jumped by nearly 40 percent to 1,140.

The police had registered just over 600 accidents across the country in January-June 2006.

Ishkhanian said they believe the main cause of the almost 31 percent surge in accidents is a rapidly growing number of cars and trucks on Armenian roads. According to official statistics cited by him, some 25,000 vehicles were imported to Armenia in the course of 2006 and another 16,000 in the first half of 2007, raising their total number to roughly 350,000.

Increased car sales are particularly visible in Yerevan where traffic jams are becoming an increasingly serious problem. Many motorists feel that the reputedly corrupt traffic police are also to blame for the traffic jams.

The recently restructured traffic police have always denied that bribery and other corrupt practices among their officers are widespread. In Ishkhanian’s words, only one officer has been prosecuted and three others fired for bribery this year.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Cars and people weave amongst each other with such a lack of attention that accidents and deaths are bound to occur. A large percentage of drivers in Yerevan really have no idea about the "rules of the road" and their parking skills are laughable. Then again there's no such thing as accident insurance here so pedestrians are taking their life in their own hands. If they would only enforce their rights over insensitive drivers, things might slowly change.

Blogger Jason said...
More about Armenia's car fetish from Radio Free Europe on July 19:

Armenian Police to Auction Off ‘Exclusive’ License Plates
By Shakeh Avoyan

New owners of expensive cars will now be able to legally buy license plates with their preferred numbers, instead of using their government connections or paying kickbacks, the Armenian government announced on Thursday.

The government approved the measure in an apparent bid to end widespread corruption and nepotism in the distribution of what many wealthy Armenians regard as a badge of prestige.

Their luxury cars typically have license plates with three or more repeating and easy-to-remember numbers. In fact, some of the country’s wealthiest businessmen have effectively monopolized entire number combinations and variations for their extended families and closest associates. Their motorcades consist of SUVs with virtually identical five-digit plates.

Obtaining so-called “gold” numbers is believed to have required, at least until now, high-level government or police connections and, more importantly, hefty informal payments to senior police officers. Local motorists say the most prestigious of them have cost as much as $2,000 or even more.

The government decision, effective from September 1, is clearly supposed to end the practice and make sure that the hefty sums end up in the state budget. The Armenian traffic police will now have to hold special auctions for the coveted license plates. Ministers instructed the police to officially define “gold” number combinations, classify them into several categories and set their price ranges within a month. Officials said information on all exclusive license plates put up for sale will have be posted on the police website before the planned auctions.

Ishkhan Ishkhanian, the chief of the traffic police, already predicted the starting price of the most expensive category: 1.2 million drams ($3,500). He said he thinks there will be no lack of people willing to pay an even higher price.

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