Road Safety Conference Addresses Key Issues

Within the last year, 602 people have died and another 9100 were injured in Georgia as a result of traffic related incidents.

The Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads (GASR) hosted a UN Decade of Action for Road Safety conference on Tuesday, May 10, at Hotel Rooms in Tbilisi. The event was organized in partnership with the United Nations Office in Georgia and US Embassy in Tbilisi, involving some key representatives of the government and various other organizations.

The conference addressed a number of core issues which concern safe roads, transport accidents and victims of such accidents in Georgia. The speakers highlighted that Georgia is one of the leading countries among EU states in terms of number of victims due to traffic accidents. Eka Laliashvili, Chair of the Board at GASR, said that in the EU, an average of 51 persons died per million citizens in car accidents in 2014, while in Georgia, this number reached 140.

Laliashvili told GEORGIA TODAY that in order to reduce car accidents in EU countries, respective governments are carrying out suitable measures and implementing proper policies. The policies entail providing safe infrastructure and transport through imposing speed limits and other kinds of bans. “All of which are accompanied by intensive educational campaigns,” Laliashvili explained, adding that complex approaches by government agencies will definitely serve as a precondition for a significant reduction in road accidents.

Shombi Sharp, Deputy Resident Representative of the UN Office in Georgia, said that the UN considers road safety a top priority globally. “The General Assembly launched a decade of Action on Road Safety. Here in Georgia, road safety is a very important issue as many people die and many more are injured,” Sharp declared. He said his Office is very much encouraged to see a new national strategy and action plan on road safety from the government of Georgia, which, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development has announced to discuss with the Cabinet, next month. “Civil society, such as GASR, is initiating a myriad of actions in Georgia, and, overall, we are optimistic that we can make a difference and save the lives of Georgian citizens,” the UN official concluded.

While facilitating the conference, Maya Kobalia, Executive Director at GASR stated that many people do not know the extent of the disaster which takes place on our roads every day. According to Kobalia, those road dangers are not just statistics, they cause a great deal of suffering for the people who have lost a loved one or who became disabled after the accident. "Road danger has a big impact in our lives, on our society, on each of us, and actions are more than needed to be taken as soon as possible," she declared.

In his conference speech, Shalva Khutsishvili, Georgia’s Deputy Interior Minister, spoke of pilot programs that his structure has introduced for about 30 high schools in Georgia; educational actions that are of paramount importance in order to increase awareness on road safety among youngsters. “Issues of road safety are not properly perceived in this country and, as a consequence, the number of casualties is high,” Khutsishvili stated.

In addition to the MIA initiative, a representative of the Education Ministry said that they are engaged in making road safety related issues a part of the National Curriculum.

Jumpstart, a local NGO, also introduced a new slogan for their ongoing awareness campaign, “Share the Road.” The campaign aims at changing human behavior regarding road safety through education.

For the GASR, this conference is no inaugural event to addressing key road safety-related matters as the organization first united a group of volunteers and other local NGOs in late March, holding a rally to protest the rampant parking and road violations that occur on the pavements of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

The protestors demanded that the police enforce the existing laws on pedestrian rights and issue fines to those who violate the regulations. The protestors later took to Tbilisi’s streets and proceeded to tag illegally parked cars with stickers demanding that the vehicle be moved.

The participants of the Tuesday conference also included Davit Narmania, Mayor of Tbilisi; Courtney Autrian, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Tbilisi; Giorgi Seturidze, Head of the Road Departments of Georgia at the MIA; and Avtandil Talakvadze, Head of the Emergency Situations Management and Coordination Department.

Georgia Today is proud to state its support for the Road Safety campaign: #ShareTheRoad

Zviad Adzinbaia

12 May 2016 18:50