Thanks to many hard-hitting campaigns that have made us laugh, cry, feel an uncomfortable, sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach, or simply birthed an “A-ha!” moment in our consciousness, the culture of road safety is going stronger than ever today.
To understand the process through which said campaigns are crystallised, we had a chance to speak with May Abdouny, Communications Coordinator at Kunhadi, a Lebanese NGO that is absolutely restless about spreading awareness and implementing policies to improve road safety.
“Back in 2008, we launched a campaign that portrayed irresponsible civilians who put others’ lives at risk with their reckless driving as donkeys,” Abdouny mentioned, under titles such as “Are You Out of Your Mind?” The campaign, as offensive as it might have seemed to a lot of people, sparked outrage, but set the standard for shock-advertising at the time, popularising the use startling imagery and concepts in advertising to get a message across. “But now, we really want to stress on setting an informational tone with our campaigning.”
By Kunhadis’ standards, shocking people is no longer cool. Causing uproars is not the only thing that would boost the collective consciousness’ understanding of road safety. Making the initiative to address such issues back in a time when the general public was accustomed to while driving, driving under fatigue, and riding motorcycles without helmets,” says Abdouny. Every once in a while, each campaign addresses one or several of such issues.
Social media is one of the most prominent platforms for each road safety campaigns. While the offline and outdoor platforms allow for a certain exposure, social media allows for measurement and interaction. “Social media is all about the feedback of the people,” mentions Abdouny. “We can collect the audience’s feedback and explain their questions. Social media also allows us to measure the success of each campaign and see how far it has reached. Through this platform, organisations abroad heard of our campaigns and got in contact with us regarding some of those they found to be thought-provoking and innovative with their communities. That’s when you know you’re making an impact.”
Road safety awareness is important not only in decreasing the number of fatalities, but to open up people’s minds. Prior to Kunhadi and other organisations that strive for the same causes, the public’s conception of road safety was more of a blame-game. Citizens blamed the government, the laws, and the poorly maintained Lebanese roads on the staggering number of deaths, before the concept of “Driver Behaviour” came into play thanks to said campaigns and advertisements.
“After the culture of “safe behaviour” was initiated, people understood that they do have control; that this was not something that should be solely blamed on an extrinsic factor,” Abdouny explains. “We even have included the issue of pedestrian rights and responsibilities in our main subjects, to make it clear to people that even pedestrians can contribute to curbing the death tolls on the streets.”
But advertising isn’t the only form of campaigning that could be done to instill road safety measures. In 2013, the Lebanese government, in cooperation with the Traffic Management Center, offered free taxis on New Year’s Eve to citizens to ensure that they do not drive home drunk. “That was the first year that zero fatalities were recorded on New Year’s Eve,” says Abdouny with a sense of pride, drawing attention to the fact that Kunhadi had offered on the NYE of 2012 and 2013 free taxis to the most frequented nightclubs in Lebanon to people who were too drunk to drive. “When you see the government following in your footsteps, that’s when you realise that you’re probably doing something right.”