Welcome to the inaugural edition of our weekly Spotlight series in which we profile Lebanese civil society organizations and spread awareness about their activities and events. Our first profile goes to Youth Association for Social Awareness, an organization dedicated to educating youth about road safety.
DL: What are the biggest safety concerns in Lebanon today? How is YASA addressing these concerns?
YASA: The biggest safety concern is the growing number of deaths due to road traffic crashes. Year after year this number is still increasing and with no immediate intervention it is expected to continue increasing to more alarming figures.
YASA is working on various aspects to help address this issue. YASA is lobbying for better laws, better enforcement, better road safety standards and more. We are also working on educating the upcoming generation on safety issues.
DL: YASA has many traffic safety programs for very young children. Why is it important to educate children about traffic safety years before they will drive?
YASA: “Safety starts with an attitude” - for this reason it is essential to expose and educate young children on safety issues and specifically road/traffic safety issues to help bring up a generation more aware of traffic safety issues. Moreover by doing interventions for young children, YASA would be able to enter many more homes through the children than any other way.
YASA believes that exposing children to road safety issues from their early years will impact them greatly when they reach the age of getting their driving license. It will also influence the parents through the children.
DL: Why is it important to try and entertain children while educating them? How does this help promote the messages of safety and accident prevention?
YASA: All YASA interventions for children focus on education through entertainment since this is known to help engrave the safety messages in the minds of the young kids. Mixing safety education with entertainment is the best way to successfully deliver the message to children and make them memorize it and transfer it to the parents as well.
DL: Are Lebanese traffic laws still outdated? In areas where the law is not outdated, is it well implemented?
YASA: The Lebanese traffic law dates back to the 60s and has very weak implementation. The problem with implementation is that it is seasonal and not continuous.
DL: Is it difficult to address more sensitive safety issues such as alcohol abuse, or child neglect and/or abuse? How can youth organizations begin to raise dialogue about these social taboos?
YASA: When YASA started raising the issue of Road Safety, the issue was never addressed by anyone in Lebanon except us. Even the news did not cover traffic crashes and deaths and the reason behind this is that people did not feel the level of its burden. It took a lot of work to make people start seeing the problem and its consequences. We believe that when there is a will there is a way to address and follow up on a concern or issue. Other sensitive issues such as alcohol abuse and child neglect and abuse have started to surface from the taboo side but still needs a lot of work and perseverance. We cannot neglect the issue that in some communities alcohol is forbidden but there is great need to address the issue of abuse to help the problem come to the surface and be handled properly rather than staying a taboo and spreading quietly among people.
DL: What is YASA’s role in disaster relief?
YASA: YASA works hard on injury prevention so our work is focused on the stage before the incident, however we saw the need to address the incident itself so we worked on the disaster management aspect too. We aim in our work to help the disaster response teams unit efforts and practice before they are faced by real situations.
DL: What are YASA’s strategies in making its awareness campaigns successful? Have conferences, seminars, and TV ads had a statistically measurable impact on accidents and injuries on the road?
YASA: YASA works on various ways to optimize the campaigns’ impact. All through the years we have organized and participated in conferences and seminars. YASA has also produced various safety spots and documentaries that were broadcast on local and regional TV stations, and were also viewed in conferences and seminars. All these were done to help promote a safer behavior and help reduce the burden of injuries due to traffic crashes. It is evident that campaigns alone do not work, and when we want to address the issue of Road Safety we need to address what we know as 6Es: Education, Engineering, Emergency, Enforcement, Evaluation and Encouragement. (More details on the 6Es can be found at www.yasa.org.)
Education is the part that is done with the students and in seminars, lectures and various interventions.
Engineering is the reflection of the safety on the roads from signing, lining, lighting to safety in road work zones and more.
Enforcement is the strict and continuous law enforcement and the updating of existing laws to meet the changes in the road and vehicles.
Emergency is the preparedness of the emergency teams to respond to an emergency situation and how to handle it in timely manner.
Evaluation is the step where you need to stop and assess what has been done and what should be done.
Encouragement is asking people to ask what the people in charge have done and if they worked to reduce the burden they should be acknowledged and if not they should be accounted for.
Safadi Foundation USA thanks YASA for taking the time to answer our questions. Please visit YASA's website to learn more about the organization and discover ways you can help youth understand road safety issues.