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Lebanon cracks down on texting while driving

Lebanon cracks down on texting while driving

A young woman checks her mobile phone while stuck in traffic in Beirut. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Shorfa]

A young woman checks her mobile phone while stuck in traffic in Beirut. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Shorfa]

 

"As I was driving, I stopped at the Awkar roundabout and then, all of a sudden, a small car that was driven by a young man talking on his mobile phone and without a seatbelt, overtook another car at breakneck speed and he hit the front of my car," Abi Hashem, 21, told Al-Shorfa.

Traffic accidents in Lebanon resulted in about 900 deaths and 18,000 injuries in 2012. The most common causes were bad driving, ignoring traffic rules or using a mobile phone while driving, according to Ministry of Transport data.

In an attempt to curb the use of mobile phones while driving, caretaker Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui and the Lebanese Telecommunications Regulatory Authority launched an awareness campaign during a joint October 18th workshop.

Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe was appointed communications Ambassador for humanitarian issues for the campaign.

"We launched the Do Not Text and Drive campaign for 2014-2015, which includes television and radio advertisements, roadside billboards and several awareness activities in schools and universities," Sehnaoui told Al-Shorfa.

"Annual statistics on traffic accidents and the number of victims are frightening and this is a major catalyst for the public sector to collaborate with civil society organisations and the private sector in order to put in place a national comprehensive plan to raise traffic awareness," he said.

The importance of follow-up campaigns

The worldwide rate of mobile phone road accidents is 20 to 30%, said Capt. Michel Mutran, chairman of the Chamber for Traffic Control, which is affiliated with the Internal Security Forces.

But "there are no serious statistics on the number of traffic accidents resulting from mobile phone use in Lebanon and the Middle East", he said.

Mutran said it would be important to reinforce the current campaign's message with follow-up media campaigns.

There is a serious attempt to create a lobbying group to pressure large institutions, including the security agencies, to adopt policies that would ban their employees from using mobile phones while driving, he said.

It also is important for accident investigators to be able to obtain "court orders that would assist the investigation in the case of a traffic accident", he said.

"This would include obtaining personal data at the time of the incident in order to ascertain if the mobile phone was being used when the accident occurred," he said, adding, "it is difficult to put an end to distractions while driving worldwide because there is no legal proof of mobile phone usage".

Youth Association for Social Awareness (YASA) founder Ziad Akl said the growth in mobile phone usage in recent years is one of the association's main challenges.

"World Health Organisation studies confirm that mobile phone usage has become a leading cause of traffic fatalities in different parts of the world and especially in Lebanon," he said.

YASA supports the new campaign, Akl said, and plans to launch its own campaign about the dangers of mobile phones within the framework of its continued collaboration with the ministry.

The YASA campaign will use billboards and the media to convey its messages over the next few weeks, he said, with follow-up awareness activities in universities and schools over the current academic year. 

Lebanon , Traffic Law

Date: 1/2/2014 8:47:37 AM

By: YASA WEB , al-shorfa.com/en
 
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