The number of people wearing seat belts in Dushanbe increases after campaign
Supported by the EBRD Special Shareholders Fund, EASST partners the Young Generation of Tajikistan (YGT) have seen significant results in their seat-belt awareness-raising campaign in Dushanbe. The year-long project has included observational surveys of over 10,000 drivers, focus groups and targeted media messages to improve seat belt wearing.
An observational study carried out by the YGT last month found that – after a five-month, intensive media campaign – seat belt wearing rates for car occupants in Dushanbe increased from 12.9 to 21 per cent since their initial study in June/July last year. This is largely due to a significant increase in driver wearing rates from 22.5 to 36%. Sadly, seat belt wearing rates amongst passengers were largely unchanged, particularly for those in the back seat where almost no passengers wore belts.
Tajikistan has a very high road fatality rate. On average, there are around 1,543 road fatalities every year – around 19 per 100,000 population despite a relatively small rates of vehicle ownership. 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.
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.
The five-month awareness campaign highlighting the importance of wearing seat belts included billboards and lightboxes which were passed each day by around 293,000 vehicles and similar numbers of pedestrians; over 2,600 television and radio broadcasts, as well as social media messaging and distributing leaflets across the city. Three-quarters of people surveyed at the end of the campaign remembered the messages, and all of them said their thinking has changed as a result.
The campaign was designed to specifically address the reasons the majority of young people (in particular) in the city decide to forego seat belts. These main reasons were drawn out through a series of focus groups and included issues such as:
- Seat belts make me uncomfortable
- Seat belts don’t protect you
- I want to be able to jump out of the car in a crash
Despite a general increase in wearing rates, there remain several barriers to seat belt wearing in Tajikistan. First and foremost, many vehicles do not have belts or do not have belts that work. A special survey found that, of 300 seats checked, over one third (36 per cent) did not have working belts. In 60 per cent of vehicles the rear seats had car seat covers that obscured belts, even when working. Ensuring seat belts are installed, accessible and functioning in all vehicles as part of tighter vehicle regulation is a crucial next step.
Enforcement of seat belt laws was also raised as an issue by the Road Traffic Police citing the fact that there are no specific legal sanctions for not wearing belts. To assist the Road Traffic Police, in November 2017, EASST’s Serghei Dioconu visited Dushanbe to discuss such issues – as well as the need for better training of police officers and the need for better communication strategies with the public.
Although there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve seat belt wearing rates, there is a strong basis now from which to build. EASST will be looking into the possibility of assisting in these areas to support more effective road policing and also better vehicle inspection regimes.