Zebras crossing: painted horses for Russian road safety

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Traffic police in Moscow offered rides on horses and ponies painted as zebras Friday in an attempt to improve road safety and raise awareness among Russia's notoriously careless drivers.

The police dispatched the fake zebras to several different locations in the Russian capital, where officials in orange vests walked them over zebra crossings and handed out flyers to passing drivers.

Some held up rainbow-coloured umbrellas over the painted animals to protect them from the rain, footage aired on television showed.

Russian roads are notoriously dangerous and drivers still rarely give way to pedestrians.

More than 9,500 people were killed and more than 100,000 injured in road accidents in the first six months of 2010, according to official statistics.

Nearly half of all traffic accidents in the country's big cities are caused by cars hitting pedestrians, and a third of those occur on crossings, according to traffic police figures published last month.

Though police officials said that only safe paint would be used on the animals, animal rights activists still fumed over the idea, accusing the police of "treating animals like garbage."

"Children understand that paints are toxic for animals: they can cause internal swelling," the Interfax news agency quoted president of Vita animal rights group Irina Novozhilova as saying.

© 2010 AFP

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