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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Unveils New Road-Safety Measures

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday unveiled a host of measures to tackle Russia's shrinking population, including moves to cut road traffic deaths that account for almost 5 percent of the decline.

The population is falling by around 750,000 people per year and President Vladimir Putin has ordered a national program to reverse the trend.

Health experts say key factors are poor diet leading to heart disease, heavy drinking among Russian males and the high incidence of violent deaths.

But Medvedev said a key part of the program would also be to cut accidental deaths on Russia's roads that number around 36,000 annually.

"This is a very important part of the demographic project," Medvedev told the parliament when challenged to explain why 100 people die on the country's roads every day -- a toll that makes them some of the deadliest in the world.

"In order to reduce deaths from preventable causes, including traffic accidents, we are proposing a series of measures, first and foremost providing fast, high-tech and qualified medical aid to victims," he said.

Medvedev, tipped by some analysts to succeed Putin when he steps down in 2008, said a first step would be to provide an additional 600 ambulances equipped with resuscitation equipment to travel to the scene of accidents.

Russia's demographic crisis is alarming the Kremlin. It fears that if the trend continues there will not be enough people to guard its borders and keep its economy moving.

Birth rates in Russia are creeping up but mortality levels remain high. The average Russian man lives for 58 years, 17 years less than the average German man.

Medvedev said his national program would also try to reduce mortality by improving cardiovascular treatment and treating acute poisoning, which often happens as a result of drinking tainted alcohol.

Russia has 10 times more accidents per vehicle than Germany or Britain. Road safety experts say prevention is the best way for Russia to cut traffic deaths: few people, for example, bother to wear seatbelts.

But medical care for those hurt in accidents is also "a huge and important problem," said Viktor Pokhmelkin, chairman of the Movement of Russian Motorists.