WikiLeaks XXXI: Tired of Watching Paint Dry, U.S. Embassy in Armenia Busies Itself With Road Safety

Texting While DrivingWe’re honored to have Michael Busch dissecting the latest WikiLeaks document dump for Focal Points. This is the thirty-first in the series.

Fair warning to young diplomats seeking adventure and drama overseas: steer clear of Armenia, and make sure not to text while doing so.

A US embassy cable published by WikiLeaks this past week describes how, rather than watching paint dry at their Yerevan headquarters, American diplomats immersed themselves in the details of Armenia’s road safety rules, of which it seems there are very few. Of particular concern is the absence of preventative measures against “driver distraction,” including cell phone use.

The cable reports that while “There are currently no Armenian laws that ban texting/cell phone use while driving,” government officials are “optimistic that a law would be passed via the Armenian government’s five year strategic transport safety plan.” The embassy dispatch also notes that “a law covering cell phone use while driving has been discussed by various parliamentarian committees, but has not yet been passed or implemented by parliament.”

As if that’s not exciting enough, the cable “interestingly” highlights the fact that “traffic statistics for 2009 showed a 20 percent improvement”—meaning fewer accidents?—“compared to previous years.” The reason?

Officials believe that this improvement was due to a stricter enforcement of fines and other sanctions for the violation of traffic rules. Aremenia has also recently started cracking down on the widespread and long standing non-use of safety belts by Armenian motorists. Additionally, Armenia Police recently announced plans to install a number of traffic cameras which would have the ability to identify motorists who violate the speed limit, run traffic lights, and other common traffic violations.

Interesting, indeed. More fascinating still, the cable draws attention to the Armenia’s efforts at raising public awareness regarding the dangers of cell phone use while ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…