Drivers and passengers who do not wear seatbelts are twice as likely to die in a crash, and 90 per cent of these cases take place in low-income economies such as Tajikistan. The country has a fast-growing rate of vehicle use, and if no action is taken to reduce this, Tajikistan’s CO2 emissions from transport could increase by 80 per cent by 2030.
In April 2017, the EBRD appointed road safety consultancy firm EASST Expertise to work with a local NGO, the Young Generation of Tajikistan, on a campaign of awareness in Dushanbe about seatbelts and about “eco-driving” (driving in such a way as to minimise fuel consumption and CO2 emissions). The project aimed to boost the rates of seatbelt-wearing. It also sought to improve local knowledge of and attitudes to eco-driving. The assignment began with baseline research, which – after 5,150 observations of car drivers and their passengers – revealed that only one in eight were wearing seatbelts. Nearly two-thirds of vehicles in the city had seatbelts that did not work or that passengers could not reach. An analysis of driving habits showed that most drivers in Dushanbe were unfamiliar with fuel economy, but were willing to learn more about fuel-efficient driving techniques.
In November 2017, the consultant, in close cooperation with the EBRD and local authorities, rolled out a five-month nationwide media campaign. The streets of Dushanbe were inundated with posters, leaflets and billboards illustrating the benefits of wearing a seatbelt, as well as how to save fuel and protect the environment through eco-driving. Striking video messages played on national television, showing the fatal consequences of not wearing a seatbelt even on short journeys and at low speeds.
The campaign created significant impact:
- For the first time, fines were introduced for failing to wear seatbelts.
- Rates of seatbelt-wearing among drivers and their passengers increased from 22.5 per cent to 36 per cent.
- Almost 300,000 vehicles, and a similar number of pedestrians, passed our outdoor messaging every day. Our videos had around 1,500 TV broadcasts and there were more than 1,000 radio airings of our audio messages.
- Three-quarters of people surveyed remembered seeing these messages and said that they had influenced their views.
- The course and eco-driving seminars that were part of the campaign were attended by146 professional drivers and fleet managers.
Clearly, a transformation is under way in Tajikistan in road safety and sustainability and this should save many lives. Similar technical cooperation support will be delivered in Bishkek during 2019. The Bishkek assignment should also help to reduce road collisions and demonstrate the EBRD’s commitment to safe and sustainable transport, in line with the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 and the Sustainable Development Goals.