Road Safety Russia

Personal responsibility could be the main guarantee of Road Safety

12 April 2013

Under the Russian Federation’s Traffic Regulations, the use of seat belts is mandatory for drivers and all passengers, including rear seat passengers. However, while front seat occupants have indeed started to buckle up, rear seat passengers seldom use their seat belts. To identify the reasons for this, the Road Traffic Safety Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has been conducting an online survey of Russians on the use of passive safety features in vehicles. The previous question, which was posted on 6 February, ascertained the respondents’ views about what could encourage both front and rear seat passengers to use seat belts.

In the last seven days 6 532 people took part in the survey. The absolute majority, 3 788 respondents (58%), said that the main reason for using seat belts is awareness and understanding of personal safety. The other respondents expressed the following opinions: 768 respondents (12%) believe that tougher penalties could resolve the problem of the non-use of seat belts; 1 239 (19%) think that only a personal experience of a road accident will teach people to follow the rules; and 737 (11%) said that increased oversight by the Road Traffic Safety Department could increase the percentage of drivers and passengers who use seat belts.

Going by the survey results, Russians do not believe that increased oversight by the Road Traffic Safety Department and harsher punishment would improve compliance with the regulations on seat belt use. The respondents said that the main factor was awareness and understanding of personal safety, i.e. one’s own standards of behaviour and responsibility. TheRoad Traffic Safety Department intends to address this issue, together with the NGO Road Safety Russia, through a new public awareness campaign on seat belts.

It is evident that legislation and a system of penalties (fines) should be accompanied by strict enforcement of the rules on seat belt use: the principle of “inevitability of punishment” should apply. Enforcement should be preceded by large-scale public information campaigns. This is an effective mechanism, which has been tested in many European countries and is endorsed by organisations such as the WHO, the FIA Foundation and the Global Road Safety Partnership.

Commenting on the survey results, the president of Road Safety Russia, Natalia Agre, said, “Of course, personal safety considerations will be the main reason for using a seat belt. But it is only when everyone on the roads has this awareness and understanding that we can count on this factor. Unfortunately, this is not currently the case. Therefore, we must continue our educational work, which will include collaboration with theRoad Traffic Safety Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs on an upcoming large-scale public awareness campaign.”

The active participation of Internet users in the Road Traffic Safety Department’s survey has shown that the subject of seat belt use is of great current interest. In the last few years, many drivers and front seat passengers have accepted the fact that the seat belt is a basic and essential form of personal protection in a vehicle. Unfortunately, back seat passengers are failing to recognise that this applies to them as well: they wrongly assume that they do not need to buckle up.

According to statistics, seat belts reduce the risk of death and serious injury in frontal collisions by 2-2.5 times, in side collisions, by 1.8 times, and when a vehicle rolls over, by 5 times. Both during and after impact it is essential that a person’s body is held in place, irrespective of whether they are sitting in the front or the back. Otherwise, as they are thrown around the inside of a vehicle, people can cause permanent harm to themselves and to others. It is impossible to predict what will happen to a vehicle after the initial impact, and spinal dislocations are likely even when travelling at what would seem to be a safe speed. Unfortunately, despite having this information, many drivers and passengers continue to ignore seat belts. Who is ultimately responsible for the safety of each person in a vehicle: the passenger himself, the driver, or the Road Traffic Safety Department? We invite all to think about it.  



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