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BISHKEK (TCA) — The number of traffic accidents has increased dramatically in Kyrgyzstan over the last 10 years, with 11,553 people killed, including 958 children.

For the first 10 months of 2017, 695 people died in road accidents in Kyrgyzstan, 24.kg news agency reported citing the Kyrgyz Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Last month, during the presidential election campaign, Kyrgyzstan’s Vice Prime Minister Temir Jumakadyrov with his driver and assistant were killed in a road accident, when a Kamaz truck hit their car near the capital, Bishkek. The Kamaz driver had crossed into the oncoming traffic lane which resulted in a deadly head-on crash.

The peak of auto-accidents in Kyrgyzstan is summer, says a local safety expert, Artur Medetbekov.

According to him, there are many reasons contributing to this sad number of traffic accidents on Kyrgyz roads. These are the increasing number of cars, irresponsible behaviour of drivers who do not follow the traffic rules (especially young drivers), drunk drivers, the lack of patrolling police officers and corruption among them, and the natural conditions of Kyrgyzstan.

“Most of Kyrgyzstan is mountains. People die from landslides and snowslides in Too-Ashuu, Ala-Bel, Otmok mountain passes every year,” says Artur Medetbekov. Every winter and spring, landslides and avalanches are a usual phenomenon at mountain passes.

The expert also mentioned that another reason for high numbers of injuries and deaths from road accidents is right-handed cars. The Kyrgyz roads have been designed for left-handed cars. But a local activist, Aibek Baratov, believes that the right-handed cars are not to be blamed for the increase in road accidents. “If a person drives badly in a right-handed car, he still will be doing the same thing in a left-handed car,” he said, adding that the number of road accidents has decreased in the last couple of years thanks to social media users who have recorded the bad behaviour of drivers on roads and shamed them online.

Dastan Bekeshov is a parliamentarian who has been raising this issue in the Kyrgyz parliament. The MP suggested tougher punishment of bad drivers by introducing penalties up to a million som (nearly US $15,000). Also, such drivers might lose their driver’s license for up to 3 years if Bekeshov’s proposal finds support. But it is at the stage of discussion only and haven't gone any further yet.

How do Kyrgyz drivers obtain their driver's licenses?

In Kyrgyzstan, there are no probationary plates. In order to obtain a driver's license, you need to attend a 3.5-month long drivers' school. After that, you need to take a traffic rules and a driving test. But many fail in those tests. Unfortunately, many drivers prefer buying a license, as corruption is widespread in the driver’s schools and road police department.

According to Aibek Baratov, raising penalties will help solve the problem partly but not completely. “We need to solve this issue comprehensively,” the activist says.

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