Georgia may have reformed its police, rebooted its electricity supplies and cracked down on tax dodgers, but when it comes to Georgian drivers, the country faces of one its biggest reform challenges yet.
Georgia leads the South Caucasus in reported road traffic accidents. A person is injured every hour in a traffic-related accident, while one death occurs every 18 hours, according to a study released by the Safe Driving Association, a Georgian non-governmental organization. The World Health Organization puts the number of fatalities at 16.8 per 100,000 people each year (compared with Azerbaijan at 13 and Armenia at 13.9).
On August 1, new traffic laws that double fines will come into force in an effort to make Georgian roads safer, but some feel that more must be done to make the roads more secure for motorists and pedestrians alike.
Updating Soviet-era road design to handle larger numbers of cars is the most expensive reform goal. As the economy has improved, the number of registered passenger cars in Georgia has more than doubled, according to the Partnership for Road Safety – from 256,153 in 2004 to 685,980 in 2009.
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Paul Rimple is a freelance writer based in Tbilisi.