Over the last few decades, roads in Lebanon have been the scene of one of the prominent causes of death in the country.
According to a 2014 World Health Organization’s (WHO) report, car crashes are among the top five causes of death in Lebanon along with cancer and heart disease. However, car crashes not only threaten global health but also affect social and economic progress as well as sustainable development. In 2014, car crashes killed 1.24 million people worldwide while wars and murders killed 0.44 million.
Locally, badly maintained roads, poor infrastructure, lack of law enforcement and the common culture of recklessness among drivers are worsening the situation. Countless civic initiatives to raise awareness have proved ineffective.
“Road crashes are inevitable. Yet, building the right defensive skills can help to reduce serious injuries and fatalities,” said Adel Metni, a well-known Lebanese rally champion and one of the country’s first road safety advocates.
Georges Metni is the founder and president of the Adel Metni Foundation, which is dedicated to his father’s memory. With a sustainable resolution in mind, maintained by a solid experience and academic background in road safety management, he decided to take an innovative approach to road safety in Lebanon. The foundation is currently focusing on building a new generation of defensive and proactive drivers. Instead of trying to increase awareness, Metni aims to "turn awareness into skills," as one of the organization's slogans says.
Defensive driving is a new idea in Lebanon, but Georges was ready to take up the cause. Based on “defensive anticipative driving techniques,” the foundation introduced the first defensive driving course in Lebanon and the region. It aims at reducing human error by educating drivers on how to respond to any failure that might occur.
Roads are rough, the weather gets nasty, cars break down, and people make mistakes. But defensive driving let drivers take control by learning to use safe driving skills. Drivers must obey the rules of the road, the laws of physics, and must acquire skills to act in an emergency situation.
“Driving is a combination of three: feeling, knowledge, and skills,” said Georges. “Defensive driving basics provide drivers with the needed knowledge and skills to become proactive drivers, but if they don’t feel the car, how would they lead it?” He noted that driving shouldn’t be seen as a duty, and drivers should be comfortable with their car.
“The more they’re feeling it, the more they’ll adapt to it and be in control,” Georges added. “If not, driving becomes a threat to their lives and others.”
This young team’s mission contributes to one of the U.N. sustainable development goals — to reduce road traffic fatalities globally by 50 percent by 2020. However, their mission is not limited to making human behavior safer. They also want to build a positive network that involves volunteers, supporters, NGOs, as well as the public and the private sectors, creating a holistic system where people can be safe.
Cars crashes will continue to happen, but defensive drivers can save lives, time, and money in spite of the conditions around them and the actions of others by analyzing the problem and responding in a responsible manner.
“Above all, social responsibility is a major factor in road safety,” Georges said. “Because each one of us should start with himself.”
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV