Monday, September 04, 2006

More Chechen Road Deaths

From Prague Watchdog (my tr.):
Accident rate on Chechnya’s roads increasing

By Ruslan Isayev

GROZNY, Chechnya – There has been a sharp increase in the number of road traffic accidents in Chechnya, especially in Grozny. More than one thousand accidents have taken place in the republic since the beginning of this year, involving the deaths of 132 people, including 22 children.

The worst recent accident occurred two weeks ago on Grozny’s Zhukovsky Street, where a 3-kilometre level stretch of asphalt surfacing has recently been laid. Five people, including two children, died there in a head-on collision between two passenger cars. On the same day, three more people were killed in the republic.

In the view of traffic police officers, the sharp increase in the accident rate on Chechnya’s roads is connected primarily with the new highways that have been built as part of the restoration of Grozny, with the low level of driving skills in the majority of drivers, and with an over-saturation of automobiles in the republic.

The typical age of those guilty of gross violations of road traffic rules is between 18 and 30. It is no secret that a large number of them bought their driving certificates under the counter. While earlier these cost not much more than $100, the sum now fluctuates between 10 and 12,000 rubles ($375-450). The price of driving certificates rose sharply after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin turned his attention to the increase in injuries and the number of accidents in Russia as a whole, and demanded a stiffening of control on the issue of licences.

The large number of automobiles in Chechnya is linked to the republic’s economic development. Since the beginning of the second war, financial resources for the republic’s restoration have begun to enter the country from Russia: the money is intended for the creation of jobs, especially in the law-enforcement agencies.

High salaries and the payment of so-called "combat" money have had a major influence on the number of motor vehicles in Chechnya. Two years ago police officials were receiving up to 30-40,000 rubles per month for working during special operations. Now this sum is not much less. For example, a rank and file official of the criminal investigation department in a local police station earns a maximum of 25,000 rubles.

This is normal pay by Chechen standards, and makes it possible for an employee to save for a motor car if he wants to. It is probably no coincidence that according to observations by traffic police officials the members of the law-enforcement agencies are the principal culprits of road accidents in Chechnya.

The most pressing issue, however, is Grozny’s new roads. This year, several tens of kilometres of new highway have been constructed. Sometimes these roads are built in violation of many safety requirements. For example, the so-called "gaps" on Zhukovsky Street, where cars can turn round, do not satisfy these requirements and drivers who attempt to complete the manoeuvre usually come out into the opposite lane, creating a dangerous situation.

Taking all these factors into account, the Chechen directorate of the traffic police (GAI) has recently formed a commission in liaison with the republic's government in order to study this problem and work out a mechanism for its solution.

Translated by David McDuff.
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