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Russia looks to boost road safety

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SOCHI, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will take drastic measures to improve its abysmal road safety record, the interior minister said Friday.

President Vladimir Putin ordered Rashid Nurgaliyev, whose ministry is responsible for road traffic organization among other things, to present a comprehensive program to improve road safety Monday, in the wake of a pileup when at least 60 cars smashed into each other in heavy fog on the outskirts of the city of Krasnodar (about 1,000 miles south of Moscow), killing one and injuring 20.

Nurgaliyev said 35,000 people aged 26 to 42 were killed in road accidents in Russia each year.

"Every 10 years we lose the equivalent population of a large city - 350,000 people," he said. "We annually spend 380 billion rubles ($1.4 bln), or 2.6% of GDP, on road-accident related activities, including medical treatment and funerals."

Nurgaliyev said the number of vehicles using flashing blue lights and sirens, which allow them to ignore traffic regulations, would be drastically reduced.

He said the number of services using such transport facilities would be cut from 11 to five, including ambulances, firefighters, police, emergency services, and the military traffic inspectorate.

He also proposed abolishing special car tags that give right-of-way, limiting their use only to specially designated government cars.

"In all, there are 1,605 vehicles with special government number plates in Russia. In the first eight months of this year, such vehicles have been involved in more than 200 road accidents, resulting in 12 deaths, and in about 2,500 traffic violations," he said.

Nurgaliyev also said there was a pressing need to enhance the drivers' legal awareness and responsibility, in particular by starting road-safety education programs in schools.

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