EASST works with Ministry of Transport to increase seat belt use in Tajikistan

News, Road Safety Enforcement, Tajikistan

EASST is working with the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Tajikistan and our local partner Young Generation of Tajikistan (YGT) to increase seat belt use across the country, supported by the World Bank.

Estimates vary on the current level of seat belt use in Tajikistan with surveys showing levels of between 12 and 34%. In Tajikistan there also tends to be a large differential between seat belt wearing rates for drivers, front seat passengers and back seat passengers. An observational survey carried out by EASST and YGT in 2018 also found that only 37% of vehicles in Dushanbe had working and accessible seatbelts.

Not using seat belts is a very high risk factor globally for road death and injury. The WHO estimates that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of a fatality among front seat passengers by 40-50 per cent and among rear-seat passengers by 25-75 per cent.

Increasing the use of seat belts could therefore have a major impact in Tajikistan, which has a very high road fatality rate. On average, there are around 1,352 road fatalities every year – around 14 per 100,000 population despite a relatively small rates of vehicle ownership, although this is also growing. With more than 70 per cent of the country’s eight million population being children and young people under the age of 30, the high level of road traffic collisions is having a tragic effect on the country’s social and economic development.

Our project, which will be implemented over the next 18 months, will review current legislation on seat belt use including the requirements to wear belts, penalties for non-use, and standards for the manufacture and installation of seat belts. We will then recommend improvements with a view to significantly increasing use rates.

International evidence suggests that significant change in seatbelt wearing rates is best achieved when legislative change, police engagement and enforcement and awareness raising are all implemented together in a coordinated campaign. Our project will therefore also include a large scale media campaign along with local police awareness raising activities around the importance of wearing seat belts and tackling common misconceptions.

Earlier this month, EASST visited Dushanbe to conduct a series of stakeholder meetings and focus groups to better understand local attitudes and beliefs around seat belts and their effectiveness. We will use this information to develop our campaign messages and activities to promote increased use and understanding of this vital life-saving behaviour.