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By Mele Laumanu Petelo

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (September 3,1997 - PIDP/CPIS)---The number of motor vehicles in the Kingdom of Tonga has increased more than five times in just the past decade, 1986 - 1996.

In 1986, only 44 hundred vehicles were registered throughout Tonga, but in 1996 this figure rose by more than 17 thousand to over 22 thousand vehicles.

This means that the road network, at any given moment, now is bearing more than four times the traffic it did just ten years ago.

A traffic department spokesman says the latest census figures indicate that there now is one vehicle for every four people in the Kingdom.

Last year, more than 5 thousand reconditioned vehicles were registered. Most were cars and light-weight trucks.

More than 120 lives have been lost from traffic accidents during the past ten years, including 14 during the first 7 months of this year. Major causes of accidents include drunk driving, speeding, driving without proper training, and negligence. The spokesman says he is worried about the traffic situation, but he knows of no government plan to limit the number of imported vehicles. The latest traffic accident, last week, killed four people and injured six others.

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