Advocating Pedestrian Safety in Georgia

The number of traffic fatalities doubled in Georgia during the first six months of 2015 in comparison with the same period of the previous year, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia. Problems with speeding, parking, fines, giving way to pedestrians, public transport and driving licenses are the main topics in this regard. The Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads ran a research project “Advocating Pedestrian Safety” to study the habits of drivers and pedestrians and showed its results at the conference with the participation of non-governmental organizations, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Tbilisi City Hall, foreign partner organizations and journalists.

“90% of accidents can be prevented. The reasons for the majority of them were already clear but, thanks to our research, we were able to discover very specific problems,” said Maya Kobalia, Executive Director of The Georgian Alliance for Safe Roads.

The conference was conducted in the framework of the EU Civil Society. Dialogue for Progress'  Project: ''Advocating for pedestrian safety through multi-stakeholder dialogue and road safety research'', which main aim was to enhance dialogue between stakeholders on pedestrian safety in Georgia since improving road safety is not a one-time thing - it is a constant process, therefore meeting with the stakeholders and the main decision makers to discuss the road safety issue (during the conducting period of the project), took this topic to a different/higher level. Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads continues to cooperate with the different stakeholders after the finishing of this particular project, in order to more efficiently solve the road safety problem in Georgia.

In this way, the study found out that the majority of pedestrians break the road rules due to the bad infrastructure of underground and overground road-crossings and due to the danger of zebra crossings. One tenth of pedestrians (10%) state that the disadvantage of using a zebra crossing is the breaking of driving rules by drivers – pedestrians don’t expect drivers to make way for them to cross.

At the same time, 98.5 % of drivers understand the obligation of giving way to a pedestrian at a zebra crossing without a traffic light. But they end to consider that if they give way, they will most likely be hit by the car behind (5%), or other drivers will be annoyed (3%). And a great majority of drivers (87%) say that they always give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings, although their behavior displays the opposite – according to the study, 76% of drivers do not do so.

Drivers themselves says that one of the stimulating factors for keeping to road motion rules will be a higher fine and if police get into the habit of always fining drivers who break the road rules. “There is a lot of talk about fines increasing both for drivers and pedestrians – it is something that can really hit their financial situation. That said, they should follow the rules not because of the fear of fines but because of the fear of potential loss of life,” noted Kobalia.

The study presentation took place with the active participation of the authorities. Vice Mayor of Tbilisi Irakli Lekvinadze said that in the near future City Hall plans to introduce a number of infrastructural changes that will partially solve the problem of road accidents. In particular, he spoke about underground passages improvment, the appearance of bike paths, and the reopening of roads that were destroyed after the flood on June 13. Tbilisi City Hall will also try to solve the problem of traffic jams, the bus park will renew soon, and public transport will become more attractive for citizens.

Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Georgia, Archil Talakvadze, said that the MIA has started working on a new road safety program. “The new program will last one year – it will be an express program to solve the top problems in our roads and will not replace the main Active Plan. The program includes an upgrade of the auto park, as well as securing the safety of pedestrians via legislation and a toughening of the fines policy. For example, we want to set points for each violation. And if, at the end of the year, the number of points exceeds the norm, the driver will be severely fined,” said Talakvadze.

In addition, Talakvadze emphasized that the MIA will change driving license exams. “We want to move part of the exam to the street – it is a better way to check the skills of future drivers. Moreover, those who already have a license, but have committed serious violations, will be re-sent to the exam,” he noted.

The government plans to present more detailed information about the new road safety program in the near future.

Eka Karsaulidze

10 September 2015 21:21