Driving in Georgia: Doing it Right
03 October, 2015
Driving in Georgia: Doing it Right
According to last year’s statistics, every second car imported into Georgia is a RHD (right-hand drive) car. This fact fuels much discussion about the need for a ban on such cars or implementation of some sort of tax on possessing them. A few months ago, Tbilisi Mayor Davit Narmania declared that RHDs hamper traffic flow and are prohibited in many countries, promising that there will be consultations on the issue. Aside from the possible banning of RHDs, there are also
active talks in parapolitical circles about encouraging the import of hybrid cars.

“If the trend continues, most of Georgia’s passenger cars will soon have drivers sitting on the right.”

The reason for the rampant RHD epidemic is that most cars that Georgia imported over the recent years originated from Japan. Only four years ago, there were 600,000 cars in Georgia, while now there are 1.1 million, and the percentage of RHDs among the imported cars grew steadily over these years, eventually exceeding that of LHDs in 2015. What has caused such a surge in popularity of Japanese cars? Affordability, of course! Japanese cars are far cheaper than their European and American counterparts. They come with less mileage and transporting them to Georgia is quite cheap.

“Is there a connection between the increase in the amount of right-hand drive cars and traffic jams that are steadily plaguing more and more of Tbilisi with every passing day?”

But is there a connection between the increase in the amount of right-hand drive cars and traffic jams that are steadily plaguing more and more of Tbilisi with every passing day? Pundits largely disagree with this notion, considering the jams to result from poor traffic organization in the city and poor driving in general. They claim banning RHDs would only serve to line the pockets of car repair shop owners, who will see a deluge of clients wishing to have their cars’ drives transferred.

Shalva Buachidze, editor-in-chief of Auto Bild Georgia magazine:

“Responsibility for Tbilisi’s traffic jams lies equally on the shoulders of both RHD and LHD car drivers. Still, I think that certain regulation of RHD import is necessary. It is understandable that there is considerable social background behind this trend – Japanese cars are cheap and well-made – but if it continues, most of Georgia’s passenger cars will soon have drivers sitting on the right; it would be completely abnormal. Naturally, no one is actually considering a full ban on such cars, but again, their import needs to be restricted – for example, their customs clearance needs to become far more expensive. As for transferring the cars’ steering wheel to the left, there is massive and not at all trustworthy jury-rigging involved and trust me, we are far better off just driving as we are!

I also support adoption of Euro-4 standard as a measure against traffic jams; this means that importing cars manufactured before 2005 into Georgia will be prohibited. Such a step would be far more prudent and useful for both traffic regulation and ecology than any legislation against RHDs.”

“Traffic jams are created not by the location of cars’ drives (or steering wheels), but by poor and incoherent traffic organization, courtesy of our City Hall. Incorrectly placed traffic lights, useless squares and roundabouts, one-way roads… I could go on all day.”

Robert Lantbelidze, traffic safety expert:

“There are more than 250,000 RHD cars in Georgia, and this amount grows on a daily basis. It seems to me that someone is hell-bent on making money off drive transfer services. After all, when one bans something, he needs to explain it. There must be statistics published saying that out of every 100 traffic accidents, X number were caused by RHD cars. However, no such statistics are available. Also, what connection is there between the cars’ drives and traffic jams? Our traffic rules state that one needs to give way to a vehicle on the right, so what difference does the driver sitting to the left or right make? If you continue down that lane, you might as well ban motorcycles and bicycles too. Besides, I have no idea where the false information about LHD cars being banned in the UK and Japan came from.

Traffic jams are created not by the location of cars’ drives (or steering wheels), but by poor and incoherent traffic organization, courtesy of our City Hall. Incorrectly placed traffic lights, useless squares and roundabouts, one-way roads… I could go on all day. It is this problem, not the right-hand drives, that needs to be dealt with first. More than 800 road signs in Tbilisi are improperly placed, and you know why? The more of them you place, the more money you make from fines, and don’t even get me started on the positioning of traffic lights. All this hampers the traffic flow far more than any RHD drivers could ever hope to.”

Georgia’s Lucrative Car Re-export Business, A Breakdowngeotv.ge

According to the latest research carried out by the analytical department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, passenger cars are imported into Georgia mainly from Japan and then re-exported mainly to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In 2014, the volume of imports increased by 21 percent and the volume of exports and re-exports decreased by 38 percent. Among the importing countries, Japan leads the pack. In 2014, compared to the previous year, 2.5 times more cars were imported from Japan, comprising 39 percent of the total import. Japan is followed by Germany, USA, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK.

Analyzing the exports and re-exports, it turns out that in 2014, compared to the previous year, Georgia re-exported 38 percent less cars, and the main destination countries were, as always, Armenia (51 percent) and Azerbaijan (40 percent). However, the number of cars exported to Azerbaijan is 60 percent less than in 2013.

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