On the 27th and 28th of July, EWMI ACCESS organized public discussions in Rustavi and Gori to inform local stakeholders about new traffic regulations (which came into force on July 1st as part of the Road Safety sector reform), the mandatory Periodic Technical Inspection of vehicles, and the challenges related to ensuring safe roads and clean air in the country. In response to the high number of road fatalities, a demerit points system and undercover traffic policing has been introduced in the road safety reform, which was advocated for by Georgian CSOs with EWMI ACCESS support. The discussions featured speakers from the CSO sector, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, and the Association of the Technical Inspection Centers. They engaged with local CSOs, transport companies, drivers and other interested parties about the following issues:
• The demerit point system and undercover traffic police – representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia gave a detailed presentation of the new traffic regulations which were enforced on July 1, 2017 and spoke about its impact on safer, more responsible driving. Although not enough time has passed to make valid conclusions, decreases in the frequency of traffic rule violations are apparent (e.g. before introduction of new regulations, an average of 700 fines was registered daily for cell phone use; this figure dropped to 180-200 cases. Cases of crossing continuous traffic lines have also decreased). Participants attending the meetings were particularly interested in the new regulations and received comprehensive responses to their questions.
• Causes of road accidents – a representative of the Tbilisi-based CSO “Hub Georgia” spoke about the key factors causing road accidents in general. Police statistics show that illegal maneuvering and speeding are the leading causes of accidents in Georgia; however, more detailed analysis of causes determining such behavior among drivers is not available. Consequently, no relevant corrective and preventive strategies can be implemented.
• Causes of air pollution and technical malfunctions of vehicles – car emissions as a result of technical defects in vehicles (e.g. damaged or removed catalytic converters) are the primary sources of air pollution in the country. As the representative of the CSO “Georgian Association of Roads and Transport” stated, the introduction of mandatory technical inspection of all vehicles in Georgia will partially solve this problem. However, clear procedures and guidelines, as well as strict monitoring of the process, should be introduced in order to ensure impartial, transparent and corruption-free inspection services. The head of the Association of the Technical Inspection Centers spoke about challenges related to the introduction of mandatory technical inspections from January 1, 2018, and about relevant legislative changes. As he noted, due to the lack of an effective enforcement mechanism, only 15% of vehicles went through the required technical inspection in 2016.
All the participants agreed that a holistic approach from various state agencies is needed to increase road safety and reduce air pollution in the country. One of the most pressing issues is the non-existence of a separate government agency responsible for implementation of the traffic policy.
EWMI ACCESS plans to hold similar discussions in other large cities of Georgia to raise awareness among the broader population about the ongoing and planned reforms to improve road safety and air quality in Georgia.