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Uzbekistan installs traffic cameras, makes other road safety moves
Authorities have adopted new laws and introduced new technology as part of a new system that is expected to be in place by the end of 2015.
By Maksim Yeniseyev
TASHKENT – Uzbek authorities are installing traffic cameras and introducing other innovations as part of an effort to improve road safety.
"Traffic cameras will be installed at all intersections and busy city streets across the country," Lt. Col. Anvar Sulaimankhodzhayev, division head of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate of Road Safety, said. "The tradition of the traffic police will become a thing of the past. Instead, drivers will be automatically issued fines by cameras that will capture any road violations. Traffic police cars will complement the work done by the cameras, with one car for every few streets."
Road safety in Uzbekistan has become increasingly important as drivers in the first half of 2012 committed more than 1.5m various traffic violations, 15% more than last year.
The cameras will first appear at 120 intersections in Tashkent by January 1 as part of the US $30m (59.2 billion UZS) programme, he said. They will capture violations and tickets will be mailed to the drivers. Late payers will face interest charges.
"The introduction of these cameras will help fight the corruption that arises when traffic police deal with motorists," Sulaimankhodzhayev told Central Asia Online. "This system will dramatically improve the image of the traffic police, and we will force the drivers to be careful."
The goal is to have a completely new system that is designed to curb traffic violations and promote safety in place by the end of 2015, officials said.
Many drivers have responded favourably to the initiatives.
"If cameras are installed, then the system will be fair, and drivers will cease to break the law to the degree that they do now," Tashkent taxi driver Orif Toshvakov told Central Asia Online. "After all, it is not possible to ‘negotiate’ with a camera."
Green lights on command
The programme also will include push-button traffic lights, some of which already have been installed.
"Pedestrians who need to cross the street press a special button, and the light turns green, allowing them to cross," said Sulaimankhodzhayev. "This rationalises the traffic flow, as previously the lights would turn red regardless of whether there were any pedestrians, creating traffic jams and wasting motorists’ time."
As with anything new, the system will require some adjustment.
"Many Tashkent residents still do not know how these crossings work," Tashkent resident Igor Sotin told Central Asia Online. "Very often you can see a group of people standing by a traffic light at a crossing, waiting for it to turn green, unaware that they need to press the button."
Another major road safety development includes the creation of the educational software Auto-Test, written by Uzbeks and approved by the Main Directorate of Road Safety.
"With the help of the Auto-Test programme, future drivers will be able to prepare for their licensing exam and check their knowledge of the rules of the road," one of the programme developers, Dinara Savostina, explained. "It is the first time such materials have been created in Uzbekistan. The software contains three-dimensional animation, which enables drivers to view the consequences of their answer to each question, be it correct or incorrect."
The Main Directorate of Road Safety is also holding a "Look out, children!" campaign that aims to ensure child safety along the roads.
"They conduct special lessons for children on the rules of the road and also monitor the quality of the road safety lessons provided by the schoolteachers," Sulaimankhodzhayev said.
"Educational institutions are creating special 'rules of the road' displays,” he said. “Also, roads adjacent to schools and kindergartens are receiving special attention. Road markings are being repainted and road signs replaced. A special plan has been put into effect in which traffic police patrol the roads adjacent to schools in the morning and afternoon."
The Uzbek parliament also debated a draft bill, "On Amendments and Supplements to the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan 'on Road Safety,'" November 12.
"The new bill proposes to give NGOs the right to participate in the efforts to improve traffic safety," Rashid Karimov, a parliamentary spokesman, told Central Asia Online. "This will give the public more leverage to address any important issues. Also, plans are in place to introduce legislative rules governing the mandatory presence of service stations on highways."
"In addition, the bill stipulates that the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Statistics keep a record of the main road safety statistics," Karimov added. "Based on these statistics, (we’ll) decide ... how to further improve the system."