A seatbelt can save your life

23 September 2020 | Opinion

FABIAN AMUKWELELE



In highly motorised countries, many deaths have been prevented by seatbelts. Yet, seatbelt compliance remains worryingly low in those countries, including Namibia, where vehicle use is rising rapidly. Thousands of entirely preventable deaths and serious injuries are occurring because the message about seatbelts appears not to be getting through to motorists.

More needs to be done to convince policymakers, officers, individual motorists and passengers that seatbelts are essential for safe driving, although strategies that work in one country may not necessarily transfer effectively to another.

Countries with the best seatbelt compliance records have achieved their position by strong enforcement of legislation, backed up by sustained publicity campaigns. This combination of legislation, enforcement and awareness raising is essential for increasing and maintaining seatbelt compliance.

Awareness raising and education have an important role to play in encouraging compliance. To be most effective, publicity and education campaigns should be run in parallel with enforcement strategies, so that the messages people read in their newspapers or see on the television are visibly reinforced by the authorities on the roads.

According to United Kingdom Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), publicity and education are very similar disciplines; however, there are subtle differences that set them apart from each other.

The role of publicity is to raise awareness among the target audience with short, sharp bursts of information through a variety of media that reinforce the aims of the campaign. Whether educational resources are pitched at adults or children, their role is to provide the detailed information to supplement campaign messages to increase the knowledge of road users.

Educational campaigns within schools over the past decades or so have been carried out by the City of Windhoek Municipal Police Service and the Namibian Police during lessons or assemblies.

Additional resources such as leaflets, flyers and postcards have been produced and distributed for public consumptions among the target audience to further reinforce the spoken word.

Seatbelt sleds are effective tools to attract the attention of both adults and children at community events to deliver educational presentations and distribute resources.

Unless educational campaigns are maintained over a long period of time, compliance rates are likely to drop as drivers and passengers either realise that there is less chance of the law being enforced, or forget the reasons for needing to wear a seatbelt.

What is vital is that all campaigns are monitored and evaluated, allowing for a review of their effectiveness and subsequent change or adjustment to ensure correct targeting of an ever-evolving audience.



*Fabian Amukwelele is the public relations officer of the Windhoek City Police and a columnist for a South African monthly magazine.

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