Campaign leads to increases in seat belt wearing rates in Bishkek
Today, our EASST partners PA Road Safety Kyrgyzstan hosted a press conference and stakeholder meeting in Bishkek to reveal the results of our summer campaign to raise awareness and the practice of using seat belts and child car seats in the city. Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of a fatality among front seat passengers by 40-50% and among rear-seat passengers by up to 75%.
The campaign, delivered with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Shareholders Special Fund, was part of our wider project to support safe and sustainable roads in Bishkek and to improve road safety for all road users. It comes at an important time for Kyrgyzstan, as next year new legislation will come into force making the use of child car seats mandatory for all children under 12 years old. For this reason, one crucial aspect of the project involved working closely with the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to whom EASST’s Serghei Diaconu, former Chief of Police in the Republic of Moldova, delivered training on the importance of seat belts and car seats, and new enforcement strategies.
In February, initial observations of over 9,000 car occupants at four major intersections across the city and at different times of the day/week revealed low levels of seat belt wearing – especially in the back seat where as few as 6% of people were buckling up, and only 12 child car seats were seen being used. The results also found that young people were slightly less likely to be belted as front passengers, but more likely as back passengers. While, it was observed that women are more likely to be back seat passengers, only around 1 in 5 drivers are women, and therefore less likely to be belted. In addition to the observational study, PA Road Safety conducted preliminary focus groups with 56 participants to find out more about the attitudes and perspectives of the general public towards seat belt and car seat use in Bishkek.
Based on these results, we developed a targeted campaign which was implemented between May-September to inform and urge the public to use seat belts and child car seats.
The campaign launched in May during UN Global Road Safety Week. The launch event took place at Dordoi Plaza, where Member of Parliament, Dastan Bekeshev, presented a child car seat to a large low-income family who are unable to afford one for themselves. A child’s chances of surviving a car crash improve by around 70% if an appropriate child restraint is used but many families cannot afford this life-saving piece of equipment. The donation was the first of its kind in Kyrgyzstan and comes as PA Road Safety begin setting up their own car-seat donation platform similar to those already operated by EASST partners in Moldova and Belarus.
The campaign included TV, radio, social media and billboard advertisements as well as a wide distribution of information leaflets targeting commonly held misconceptions about using seat belts (as discerned through our focus groups), and issuing guidance for parents on the different types of car seats which are available and most appropriate to their child’s height and weight. Road safety lessons were conducted in 19 schools reaching 2,427 students; and specific training was conducted for taxi companies, the maternity hospital no.4, and the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate of the Ministry for Internal Affairs. An exciting road safety training day was also organised at secondary school No. 25 for students in grades 1-3 and grade 6 as well as teachers and partners, during which two child car seats were donated to local families via a raffle.
Following the end of the campaign, in late September and October, a further observational survey was then carried out – this time including over 12,000 car occupants – at the same intersections and times as the initial study in February. Happily, the results revealed an increase in the number of drivers and front passengers choosing a safe ride by buckling up, and a significant increase (160% from the baseline) in the use of seat belts in the back seat. The survey also found 82 cars using child car seats. While this figure is low, in relative terms it shows a seven-fold increase in just seven months – demonstrating that people’s awareness and attitudes are changing
OBSERVED SEAT BELT WEARING RATES, BISHKEK
% increase from baseline
Improvement in wearing rates
In addition to the campaign on seat belts, the project as a whole, included activities highlighting the importance of visibility for pedestrians and strengthening the capacity of local engineers to improve road design from pedestrian safety perspective. PA Road Safety organised a series of seminars for university students and distributed leaflets to parents, drivers, and children (through the school road safety lessons) on the issue of visibility – especially during the winter months which is when 87% of all pedestrian road fatalities occur.
Separately, 14 road engineers took part in a training programme led by EASST Expertise consultant Tolga Imamoglu, an active trainer for the WRI (World Resources Institute) in Turkey. The 3-day training included classroom sessions on the essentials of identifying issues and solutions for all urban road users – how to design safe, inclusive and prosperous city environments; how to protect pedestrians; the importance of engaging local communities; and how to manage high-risk locations. Drawing from their classroom training, the participants made detailed proposals for improving an intersection in Bishkek that in the last year has seen 16 road traffic collisions – two involving children.
PA Road Safety, EASST and the EBRD are grateful for the assistance of the many organisations involved in this project including: the Ministry of Emergencies; the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic/Central Traffic Safety Inspectorate of Bishkek; the Ministry of Transport; Bishkek City Hall; the Medialab Company; Bishkek City Hall Education Department; the Central District of Pervomaisky and schools of the Pervomaisky district of Bishkek; school #25; the fuel and energy complex KNAU named after Scriabin; Kyrgyz State Technical University; Arabaev University; Dordoi Plaza; Maternity Hospital No. 4; representatives of taxi companies; “Heiner kg” store; Avtogid newspaper; State Tele and Radio Company; ElTR, NTS, 5 channel, Pyramid, Europe plus, Kyrgyzstan Obondoru, Azattyk radio, radio BBC, newspaper Kutbilim and many others.