Life in Iran TodayIranians count the cost of Nowruz traffic carnage

Iranians count the cost of Nowruz traffic carnage

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The Guardian: As the Iranian New Year holiday comes to an end, it is estimated that between 500 and 700 Iranians lost their lives in road accidents during the two weeks’ holiday, from 20 March to early April. The Guardian

As the Iranian New Year holiday comes to an end, it is estimated that between 500 and 700 Iranians lost their lives in road accidents during the two weeks’ holiday, from 20 March to early April.

While road fatalities are not unique to Iran, the failure of successive Iranian governments over the last two decades to regulate safety standards in the car industry and effectively maintain the road network has made Iran one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to drive a car.

Two years ago, the United Nations’s general assembly called on member states to “implement road safety activities”, particularly in the areas of road safety management, road infrastructure and vehicle safety. It declared that the years from 2011 to 2020 should be “the decade of action for road safety”. This message clearly didn’t resonate in Tehran.

Over the past two decades 500,000 Iranians have died in what experts say were preventable road accidents. The deaths from these ubiquitous accidents have become a feature of life in Iran.

One of the central reasons for the staggering toll is that the national car manufacturers, which have an effective monopoly in the country, produce vehicles many believe are unfit for purpose.

So abysmal is the safety record of some of these Iranian-made vehicles, of which more than 1.6m were produced in 2011, that the national traffic police have refused to issue number plates for them, despite approval from the government’s standards agency.

The head of safety from Iran Khodro, the main car manufacturer, said two years ago that his company placed more emphasis on the safety of cars produced for export because the potential “headache” and cost involved in having to recall cars from foreign customers.

The two other key issues that add to the death toll are the unacceptable state of the roads, and what one former traffic police chief called the lack of a proper “driving culture”.

According to Iran’s official news agency, the death toll on the roads has affected every family in the country, in the same way that every citizen was affected by the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

Out of a population of 75 million, more than 25,000 people die in road accidents every year. By comparison, fewer than 35,000 people die on the roads in the 27 countries of the European Union, which has a total population of 500 million.

Perhaps one of the reasons members of the Iranian government haveyet to feel this issue directly is that most of them drive the imported, foreign cars with the highest safety standards – cars that are out of the reach of most Iranians.

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