he FINANCIAL -- In honour of European Road Safety Day the Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads held an event at the European School, which was dedicated to reducing pedestrian fatalities and obeying road safety rules in general. The event was held within the framework of the road safety public-education campaign - “Yield to the Pedestrian”.
Fourth and fifth graders of the European School gave a performance in which they explained how to behave in certain situations while driving or safely crossing the road. One group was saying that road safety rules should be obeyed by pedestrians while the other group was explaining that drivers should always give way to pedestrians. The hall was arranged like a real street, with traffic lights and zebra crossings, by the “Crossroad’’ Ltd.
“I was impressed by the children’s knowledge of road safety rules. I was also impressed by the talents of the actors, because it was quite funny,” said Boris Iarochevitch, Minister Counselor, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the EU to Georgia. “The organisers definitely addressed the main problems in Georgia regarding road safety, such as: drivers on the phone, not wearing seat belts, occasionally children sitting in the front seat of cars and drivers not respecting zebra crossings and pedestrians. As I saw, the children understand quite well how to respect road safety rules. Road safety is a culture. Therefore it should be taught by the school like other habits and customs. It took many years in Belgium to develop security and road safety. Road safety is more than learning some things when you pass the driving test. It is really a culture which dictates to us how to respect each other. It is a challenge in Georgia as you have many cars and road security should be obeyed more. If children start their education with activities and educational games regarding road safety it will become easier for them to obey the rules when they start driving,” he added.
“Road accidents are the number one cause of mortality in the world. When you have a visa-free regime between Europe and Georgia more and more Georgians will go to Europe with their own cars or hired cars. They will be forced to respect the rules of the EU. They will see how people drive in Europe and will apply it back in Georgia. The main concern in Georgia is the drivers' attitudes towards pedestrians. Walking to the office and back home is extremely dangerous for me. I can only imagine how risky it is for children, vulnerable people or the elderly to walk in the streets. Some progress has been made in Georgia, such as using security belts. Speed limits are also being respected more. Even adults have started using their belts,” Iarochevitch said.
“In the future we will have a technical assessment of cars in Georgia to check the brakes and the lights on the car, which often do not work well. It will cost some money for Georgians to check their cars. In Belgium it costs around EUR 25 per year to check the car. It will be more or less the same here. If it saves people's lives, all of us should pay. It is invaluable and it should be done. Little by little we will reach a culture of road security which will benefit everybody,” Iarochevitch added.
The Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads has held different activities to raise awareness of road safety in Georgian society since 2011. The Alliance is now implementing a new public-education project, with the participation of a non-governmental partner organisation in Estonia – “TrafficProf”. The project aims to meet with youth and explain to them the dangers of not obeying road rules. Meetings with young people and schoolchildren will be held at ten schools within Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi and Gori.
“It is important that it was schoolchildren who made this performance today for them to realize what road safety actually means,” said Maya Kobalia, Executive Director of the Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads. “This is because when they are sitting in their parents cars they will definitely ensure that their parents obey road safety rules, too” she added.
Statistically the biggest problem in Georgia is speeding, followed by drink driving and cases in which pedestrians cross the roads where crossing is prohibited, according to Kobalia. Approximately 94% of accidents in the world, including in Georgia, are caused by human factors like speeding or drink driving and is preventable, she says.
“Road safety is a very complex issue. The involvement of only one organization and its attempt to solve this problem will yield no results. It is necessary to work together with the government, with the donor and partner organizations, with the media and with private companies. All of our initiatives have had very positive results. For example, as a result of our campaign “Don't Drink and Drive” - there were amendments in the law and from January, 2014 according to new amendment there's a new penalty: driving license suspension up to 6 months for any person convicted of drunken driving (for the first offenders). Several years ago penalty was only 250 GEL. We hope that this new project on pedestrians will have a positive impact as well,” said Kobalia.
Street actions with the participation of youth, the distribution of brochures and car stickers, broadcasts of road safety public-education videos via TV channels, radio and social media as well as road safety seminars and workshops for pupils are some of the upcoming activities which has started in Georgia on April 23 in the framework of the public-education campaign ‘’Yield to the Pedestrian!”. The lack of awareness has been cited as a major problem causing so many car accidents in the country and the trend can only be reversed through the joint and deliberate efforts of the government, civil society and the private sector.