Brian's Column: The use of the social media revolution in road safety

Brian's Column: The use of the social media revolution in road safety

Brian is back with a new column on the use of social media in road safety. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and so forth offer a unique place to reach our target audience with road safety messages although it does pose some challenges too. Read what Brian thinks about the social media revolution in Africa here.


Happy new month every one! It’s been a while since we last had a chat. I extend my lung felt (I should say ‘heart-felt’ but am too smart to know that you will start questioning and drawing some hypotheses ha-ha) appreciations to these tweeps: @ManpreetDarroch @SkDba @YOURS_YforRS @Sheilativ @caseymarenge @UNRSC @Make_Roads_Safe @dinhzarr @NOYSnoise @RYDrivers @SkDba @Amend @GenBois @DrIanClarke @carolbarebo @HumanityStrong and @RedCrossMbarara! I wish to take this chance to notify them that I spied on their timelines and they did a lot of commendable work especially during the #RoadSafetyChat event as well as sharing more opportunities and knowledge concerning the love of my life Miss Road Safety #PublicHealth.

Twitter and Facebook alongside other social media now dominates many young people's lives.

For many of young people today, social media is the coolest way to stay in touch! In fact, from my experience, I find young people using Facebook and Twitter inboxes, like their email accounts; here, they are sharing opinions and news, which may be positive or critical. Social media is, without a doubt having a major impact around the world today in terms of how we communicate and interact. Oh, you may disagree with me…but wait a second…

Social media represents a shift from traditional media, which includes television, newspapers and radio but his doesn’t mean, that we have discarded traditional media though. What social media allows is for us, the mass public, to create written, audio or visual content on the Internet using computers or mobile phones and other digital devices. Social media provides a powerful platform for advocacy and engagement by allowing organizations, individuals, politicians, and others a direct voice to the public to create open dialogue and contribute their own personal accounts.

We can’t under estimate the power of using social media to spread road safety messages as well as sharing news and information in “real time” and it is opening a door to those who would, perhaps, not participate in such dialogue.

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Social media offers the chance for those who wouldn't have an opportunity to participate.

In Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa, I have seen them give safety  tips to motorists on how to use their indicators and mirrors, how to change lanes, anticipate the movements of pedestrians, watch out for animals including camels and other drivers, and how to navigate safely on the nation's new eight lane highways. May be, we could have another campaign focusing on pedestrian safety? Say…yes!

In the words of Mr. Muiru-a Kenyan social media and road safety expert, “Social media is a cheaper option compared to doing newspaper or TV adverts to sensitize the pubic on road safety. The reason we started off with social media is because most Kenyans who are on social media interact with their followers even when driving. Our target is to reduce the number of road accidents and lives lost on the road,” Of course, you should never ever check your social media on mobiles or other media while driving, this issue this requires its own duty of care to ensure the message itself is not causing a problem for road users.

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In a modern world, most major global organizations have online profiles on social media.

Dr Lee Jong-Wook, director-general, World Health Organization once said that ‘We must now use every day to act on road safety, and implement effective sustainable action to prevent injury and death on the world's roads’ This shows that we must use every day to communicate and disseminate our road safety messages. It is important that road safety communicators stay in touch with the latest technology and that the newest tools of communication being used to convey road safety messages as best as possible.

In our mission to educate and motivate young people to become road safety role models and save young lives, we must take road safety to spaces young people inhabit, in technologically advanced world, this place is the internet.

Nevertheless, we should be aware of the fact that road crashes happen the most in low and middle income countries. Believe it or not, a big proportion of the world still has no access to the internet or have ever seen a computer. It is in these places that of course, social media is redundant.

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In any case, social media should complement road safety strategies rather than be an road safety entity in itself, we should never underestimate the power of face-to-face road safety action! Campaigns such as Embrace Life and The World Crossing Campaign are testament to showing that young people can unite across boundaries for road safety via social media!

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Different to traditional social networks, online social media enables a level of interaction across geographical boundaries which is perfect for network such as the Global Youth Network for Road safety.

You may also be aware that, the Global status report on road safety 2013 was published last month! About 1.24 million people die each year on the world's roads and between 20 and 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries. Young adults aged between 15 and 44 years account for 59% of global road traffic deaths. Aha…Young Adults, they are talking about me too, right. Texting while driving or using mobile phone while driving is somewhat becoming a kind of addiction to young people these days. Could this be because of the urge to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter? In more positive news the recent World Health Organization #RoadSafetyChat discussing the report pulled in a great amount of participation worldwide!

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Read more about the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013 here.

The media industry has undergone significant changes over the past 5 or so years and has given a voice to more than professional journalists. The new social media has opened a new world of communication – a world that can assist in changing driver behavior and enhance road safety if we use it with care. Shall we then tweet and Facebook more for #RoadSafety



Read more Brian's Columns
WHO #RoadSafetyChat
More about the Global Status Report 2013