Armenia Grapples with Surge in Traffic Deaths Despite New Road Police

Jan 16 2024

By: Momen Zellmi

In a startling revelation, Armenia has reported a sharp 17% escalation in traffic fatalities in 2023, marking a count of 362 deaths between January and November. This surge in casualties has emerged despite the country’s expansion of its new road police force, established in 2021 with the support of Western funding.

Officials from the Armenian Ministry of Interior attribute the rise in traffic-related deaths and violations to the recent nationwide deployment of the Patrol Service. This newly formed entity, backed by the United States and the European Union, was created with an aim to instill Western standards in road policing and crowd control in Armenia.

However, the Patrol Service has not been without its share of controversy and criticism. Perceived incompetence in its handling of traffic regulation has led to the dismissal of its first chief, Artur Umrshatian, in February 2023. Lenient enforcement of road safety measures and widespread non-compliance by motorists, particularly concerning seat belt usage, further compounds the problem.

Despite these challenges, Armenian officials, including Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, continue to uphold the Patrol Service as a successful reform initiative. They express optimism that the escalating trend of traffic fatalities will be reversed in the coming year. The country, however, also grapples with a broader increase in crime, especially drug trafficking, spurring discussions on potentially criminalizing drug addiction.