BISHKEK (TCA) — Pedestrian safety is becoming a major issue in Kyrgyzstan today. Just now, a few minutes ago before I started to write this article I nearly fell victim to a traffic accident myself: as I started to cross the road at an intersection a car driven at high speed drove through a red light, almost hit me and continued driving as if nothing had happened at all. What seems to be a very serious road traffic offense is now becoming a regular thing on Kyrgyz roads.
Every year the Kyrgyz Ministry of Internal Affairs registers some 7 thousand pedestrian accidents across the country, with more than a thousand of them being fatal. In 2016, 938 people were killed in traffic accidents and 8,892 people got injuries. For this year, the number of casualties has relatively dropped according to the Annual National Road crash statistics, but the problem remains unresolved. According to the Economic Commission for Europe report, Kyrgyzstan is a second country with the Highest Rate of Road Traffic Accidents. Other experts from the World Bank Group in their Global Status Report estimate the road traffic situation in Kyrgyzstan as one the worst in the world. The same was expressed in 2016 by the Minister of Health Talantbek Batyraliyev at a national road safety conference, when he stated that “Kyrgyzstan is among the top three countries with the highest death rate of traffic accidents.”
In general the high rate of road traffic accidents is a common problem for most of developing countries. As a young nation Kyrgyzstan struggles to establish the system of services and facilities necessary to prevent road traffic accidents across the country. Poor road conditions, bad traffic maintenance and traffic congestion are among the main challenges that should be targeted first. Nevertheless, the Kyrgyz government’s inaction is another important factor that hinders a solution. The lack of an efficient administrative system and supervision over state funds allocation creates conditions favourable for corruption. Ineffective legislative system and lack of police enforcement do not prevent drivers from serious traffic violations.
Today, however, not only officials are concerned about this pressing issue. As a result of the government’s slow action to remedy this problem, a lot of initiatives comes from the general public. For instance, a national forum for Road Traffic Safety was held in late June at the initiative of non-profit organization Road Traffic Safety and with the help of the political party Onuguu Progress. The overall goal of the national forum was to discuss possible solutions with major figures of the country, but most importantly to bring the authorities into a participatory process and to coordinate a new resolution project aimed to improve traffic safety. The main goal was not achieved as government representatives invited to the forum didn’t attend it, and the forum’s resolution was not ratified.
Overall, a lot of efforts have been taken recently to make road traffic in Kyrgyzstan safer. Many social marketing campaigns were launched to prevent drivers from breaking traffic rules. Numerous civil movements and public organizations were created to raise awareness among the public. Many attempts have been made recently, yet much still depends on what steps the government will take in order to tackle the problem.