In October 2015, two pedestrians were hit by a car on one of the central streets in Tskhinval. This happened at a crossing point that is usually very busy because of a bakery store that works until late in the evening. Due to the lack of traffic lights this place was considered unsafe. Prior to this accident, there were several other cases of pedestrians being hit by cars, but this one created havoc in the society. Firstly, two women died in the accident, and secondly, it was a hit-and-run accident. The security camera of the garment factory located across and the personal camcorders of the cars parked nearby recorded the accident.

The driver of the car Atsamaz Totoev abandoned his car in the forest not far from home and left for Vladikavkaz, where he was arrested the next day. Both 54-year-old women died in the ICU 40 minutes after the accident.

During the reconstruction of the roads in Tskhinval many raised concerns regarding the recklessness of the drivers saying that when the streets are re-paved, the number of accidents will increase since traffic regulations are being violated all the time. Getting behind the wheel after a drink or even drunk was considered to be normal. For many drivers, the road signs had a purely aesthetic function. Charges for accidents wouldn’t be brought and no cases would be taken to court.

However, the accident on January 9 that claimed the life of the Prosecutor General of South Ossetia, forced the authorities to pay attention to the situation on the roads. The high ranking official was on his way home from a wedding party, when at the intersection next to the house hosting the celebration, he was hit and killed by the driver coming down the avenue. The results of the examinations revealed that the driver was under the influence. After this incident, traffic police patrol posts were put virtually on all intersections in Tskhinval and on the roads leading to the city. The posts were enhanced by the city police officers armed with machineguns going out in the streets every evening. As a result of this special operations, many drivers were arrested for DUI, and two high ranking officials from the Ministry of Interior and the State Prosecutor’s office were dismissed.

At the end of January 2016, the youth civil society organization “Iri Sombon” in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior of South Ossetia launched the “Safe Road” initiative. The youth activists were giving out flyers to the drivers pulled over for document inspection by the police officers and raising awareness on following the traffic regulations. After this campaign, a roundtable discussion was held hosting also representatives of the Ministry of Interior, the media, the driving school, and the president’s administration. Head of the traffic police Elbrus Tskhovrebov presented the statistics on traffic accidents in South Ossetia for the past two years. The death toll, the number of traffic violations, tickets and “drunk” drivers increased by almost a quarter within a year.

In an early February meeting with the president, Minister of Interior Akhsar Lavoev reported that as a result of the operations charges were brought against 341 people in January and 285 people in February, out of which 19 for DUI. “If a driver gets behind the wheel drunk he is facing a 20,000-ruble ticket. After the second violation, his driver’s license will be revoked for a period from a year and a half up to two years. In case the driver gets behind the wheel while his license is still revoked, he will be facing a 30,000-ruble ticket,” said Lavoev. At the same time, a traffic police officer in a private conversation said that the number of drivers under influence is not decreasing. “During our operations every evening, we pull over 5-6 drunk drivers. Their numbers are not decreasing. And this is the case with measures being taken every evening while we are pulling over not all cars and not at all intersections. It can be estimated that every evening at least 10 drunk drivers are driving around the city!”

At the meeting with the president, Head of the president’s administration Alan Dzhioev stated his strict expectation of at least two dismissals from office if the safety on the roads does not improve in the near future. However, nobody from the Ministry of Interior or its subordinate units has left office yet.

A solution to the problem of traffic safety could be the establishment of permanent surveillance on the roads. So, in late January, specialists from Moscow-based organization in the framework of the comprehensive information program “Safe City” installed traffic cameras on the busiest streets of Tskhinval. Camera locations were selected based on recommendations from the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate, the criminal police, the Central Administration of Internal Affairs, and other bodies of the Ministry of Interior. Elbrus Tskhovrebov believes that this novelty will result in increased security and more effective work of the ministry. “For example, in cases when there are no witnesses, as it often happens, data from the cameras will be used,” he explains. Mayor of Tskhinval Alan Alborov believes that the need to implement a centralized video surveillance system in the city of Tskhinval is long overdue. “On our part we will show support and provide assistance in the implementation of the “Safe City” program. I would like to stress that we are ready to support any initiative that is geared to the benefit of our city and its residents”.

A traffic light is now mounted in front of the bakery where the two women were killed. Atsamaz Totoev, charged with the hit and run of the women, was brought to court on January 29 for the first hearing. After the hearing, on the way to the detention center, the defendant was shot by the son of one of the victims of the accident and died on the spot. “Totoev’s murder was a result of an attack on the detention center guards accompanying the defendant from the court. Totoev died as a result of the injuries. The shooter, Timur Kobesov is detained at the crime scene”, reads the statement of the Ministry of Interior on the webpage of the news agency Sputnik.


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