Bad driving, severe code violations and pervasive corruption among traffic cops are rampant on Kyrgyzstan’s roads.
The Interior Ministry has reported that more than 6,600 car accidents occurred in 2015, leaving 976 people dead and another 9,847 injured.
“Traffic accident fatalities have a great impact on the economic and social development of our country as the main victims in accidents are young people of working age. Various experts estimate that the Kyrgyz economy loses $250 million (about 4 percent of the gross domestic product) every year as a result of these crashes”, the ministry has stated.
To tackle the problem, before the parliamentary elections in 2015, deputies proposed a bill on mandatory car insurance, which would allow the injured and the families of car crash victims to secure compensation for damage to their health and property. It was the first time any compulsory insurance was to be introduced in the country. The law will oblige car owners to insure their civil liability within five days of buying their vehicle and to extend the policy annually.
The cost of the insurance is to be around $40. In the event of a death, insurance companies would be liable to pay $2,600 and a sum up to that amount in case of injuries.
Since the law takes effect in early February, many car owners are now fretting about possible fines for people found not in possession of an insurance policy. The head of the Financial Market Control Service, Sanzhar Makanbetov, tried to reassure drivers by telling them they will have two months to get insurance before they could start facing fines.
That has sparked much indignation among drivers, and their champions in the media. As there are only around a dozen companies licensed to offer insurance and more than 1.2 million cars on the road, many complain it will be physically impossible to issue all those policies in time.
Some member of parliament has suggested pushing back the date the bill comes into effect to 2020.
Natalia Nikitenko, a deputy with the Ata Meken party, said parliament had chosen its timing poorly, given the economic travails currently assailing the country.
“The government has chosen this very period to introduce this additional burden in the form of insurance fees, when even the system of coordination between the government and insurance companies hasn’t been worked out,” she said.
The criticism has prompted officials to pledge that drivers will get two years to insure their cars and will not faces fines before 2018.