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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev: Road Safety As Urgent As Recession

APTransportation Minister Igor Levitin, left, with U.S. counterpart Ray LaHood.

President Dmitry Medvedev called on the international community Thursday to rally around the problem of road safety and treat it with the same urgency as they have the global financial crisis.

“It is no less dramatic for our planet than the consequences of the world’s recession or food supply security,” Medvedev said while opening the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety.

The annual damage to the global economy is $500 billion, he said.

In July, Medvedev criticized the country’s road safety record, calling the situation “monstrous” after a series of fatal bus and car crashes left dozens dead. He held a special meeting on road safety Aug. 31, giving a number of orders to ministries and agencies.

“The situation in our country remains very serious. Last year, about 30,000 people died on Russian roads,” Medvedev said Thursday.

The government wants to decrease casualties on the road by 33 percent by 2012, compared with 2004 levels, when about 35,000 died, he said.

There have been roughly 168,000 car accidents in Russia this year, killing more than 21,000 people and injuring 212,500, according to Kremlin data.

About 1,500 delegates from 150 countries gathered for the conference, which had preliminary meetings Wednesday and continues Friday. Participants say the economic and human costs of road deaths often exceed those of war and disease.

The World Bank estimates that 12 people die in car accidents every minute.

Russia first proposed hosting the high-level meeting during a March 2008 United Nations meeting.

In addition to Medvedev, a number of senior Russian officials attended.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said his ministry was reinforcing measures against drunk drivers and high speed on the roads.

Speaking a day earlier, Colonel General Viktor Kiryanov, head of the traffic police, told delegates that the number of road deaths had been decreasing since 2004 but that problems remain.

In particular, corruption still exists on Russian roads, he said, calling on drivers to avoid giving bribes. “Don’t give them. And don’t break rules, then we won’t have these conflicts,” he said.

The traffic police said Thursday that a 24-hour telephone hotline was opened as an anti-corruption measure. The phone number for those who want to report corruption in Moscow is 623-7892.

They also listed a pager number for complaints and questions: 974-0111.