In recent weeks, much to the delight of Colombo city road users, driving a vehicle seems to have gotten a lot pleasanter. In the not-too-distant past, the mere thought of stepping behind the wheel to get from Point A to Point B in Colombo, was enough to turn anyone into a grouch. Not surprisingly because drivers had become accustomed to their driving lanes being taken over by impatient three-wheeler drivers and motorcyclists. Throw in the odd behemoth of a bus or headlight-flashing SUV and the poor motorists would have all of a quarter of a lane to drive on.
This situation has changed for the better with the Colombo City Traffic Police enforcing lane discipline. What a welcome sight it is to see vehicles lined up on their allotted side and not randomly veering onto the lane reserved for oncoming traffic.The Traffic Police are doing a wonderful job; it cannot be easy re-programming an undisciplined driver’s thought process.
The law enforcers no doubt take volumes of flak from offending motorists who do not realise their mistakes in the first place.
The current situation brings in to focus the importance of public awareness. Education and awareness measures, such as road safety campaigns, road safety information days and community outreach programs should be used to influence the attitudes and behaviour of all road users.
The education of children and adolescents as future road users and drivers is a particular concern; education authorities should consider weaving it into the school curriculum laying emphasis on road use as a lifelong learning process. Introducing school-based road safety education can instil safe attitudes of young people early which will protect them later in life. It could include the parents as they are the major role models children imitate.
Road safety awareness campaigns are an important tool to communicate with road users and to share safe driving tips; for example, the negative effects of using a mobile phone when driving or what to do when experiencing symptoms of fatigue.
Ever since the invention of the automobile, traffic accidents have travelled alongside its development. In Sri Lanka, the loss of life due to traffic accidents in the recent past has been horrifying. Human factors are the major cause of most of the road traffic accidents. A large percentage of road traffic accidents are caused by disobeying the traffic rules and lack of common sense of traffic safety
Raising public awareness is not the same as telling the public what to do – it is explaining issues and disseminating knowledge to people so that they can make their own decisions. High public awareness occurs when a significant proportion of society agrees that the safety of traffic regulations in the city is an issue that is of great importance to all citizens. Low public awareness occurs when a majority of people do not know or do not care about traffic safety in the city. There are two main areas to focus on when raising awareness about traffic safety. First, there is general public awareness, which involves widespread understanding and acknowledgement of the issues on a societal level. Second, there is self-awareness, which occurs when individuals understand how the concept of road safety affects them personally.
There are different ways to raise public awareness about traffic safety. It can be done through specific planned events, poster campaigns, websites, documentaries, newspaper articles, in schools and workplaces – any publicly available media. Different examples of strategies for raising awareness are presented throughout this section. Ideally, programme partners would combine a few strategies together, each tailored to the priority and specific groups of the population.
Methodologically sound approaches to raising awareness, together with sufficient exposure have been shown, through social science research, to have an effect on knowledge, attitudes and behaviour. It is usually more effective to create a coordinated, long-term awareness-raising campaign than to create large, short-term campaign. This is because when the concept of road safety is talked about over time, its importance becomes normalised – it becomes a normal part of people’s everyday lives. By contrast, if there is only one single campaign to address the issue of road safety people may forget about the issues once the campaign is over. By taking different approaches at different times, awareness can be raised all over the city, using current events and issues as a backdrop for talking about safe cities.
Public awareness is important because road and traffic safety is created when people in cities work together to eliminate indiscipline on the roads. In order to work together, the public needs to have a common understanding of the importance of traffic safety in their communities.