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Iraqi Kurdistan to take "strict measures" against drunk driving

By Mariwan Salihi
Wednesday, 04 January 2012

ERBIL, Iraq - The Kurdistan Region Ministry of Interior has announced the arrival of new equipments to measure blood alcohol among drivers in the autonomous northern Iraqi enclave.

 

The breathalyzers are being used for the first time in Iraq and Kurdistan Region, as the region has one of the highest fatal car-accident rates in the world, believed to be mostly caused by drunk driving.

 

"The new equipments [breathalyzers] have recently arrived and they will be distributed among the directorates of traffic in all three governorates [Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhok] of Kurdistan Region," informs General Rizgar Ali, the General-Director of Traffic Police in Kurdistan Region.

 

"The amount of drunken driving increases [in Kurdistan Region] during celebrations and events and in the tourist areas, but it's too difficult to measure that because of the over-crowded roads and areas during these periods and in those areas," acknowledges Ali. "But there will be strict measures taking place from now on."

 

He mentions that the breathalyzers will be used by the local traffic police during random checkpoints in and around the cities, major towns and tourist resorts.

 

Furthermore, on the scene of car-accidents or traffic violations the breathalyzers will also be used when the police suspect the driver of driving under influence.

 

On New Year's Eve, a traffic accident on Erbil's 100M Ring Road killed four people, believed to be caused by drunk driving.

 

Data from the first eight months of 2011, collected by the Kurdistan Traffic Department (KTD), show that 458 people were killed, and 4766 others were injured due to traffic accidents in the three provinces of Kurdistan Region. The KTD release dating September, 2011, reveals that 169 were killed and 1295 injured in Erbil, 179 killed and 2623 injured in Sulaimaniyah, and 67 killed and 564 injured in Duhok.

 

Iraq's Kurdistan Region has an estimated population of 6 million.

 

In stark contrast to the rest of the Middle East, the Kurdish authorities are fairly tolerant with alcohol consumption. But the lax alcohol rules have prompted many to abuse the existing liberal attitude, and drive while intoxicated and put other civilians' lives at danger.

 

It's for the first time in the history of Iraq and Kurdistan Region that breathalyzers are used to curb the rising number of drunken driving behavior.