quotes Saudi insurance companies can and should do more to reduce traffic accident deaths

15 May 2024
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Updated 14 May 2024

Saudi insurance companies can and should do more to reduce traffic accident deaths

It is said that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was shocked when he was told during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s that more Iraqi pilots were dying in traffic accidents than in air battles with Iran. Upon hearing this he decided to spearhead a massive awareness campaign on the importance of wearing seat belts when driving, and even ordered television cameras to focus on him wearing his seat belt whenever he got in and out of his official car. He did all of this to convince Iraqi citizens of the importance of wearing a seat belt.
Along the same lines, former US Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater is quoted as saying: “The single most effective action we can take to save lives on America’s roads is to increase the use of seat belts and the use of child safety seats.” Note that Slater did not focus on convincing people to slow down, because he knew that an unbelted passenger in an 80 km per hour crash was likely to die, while a belted passenger in a 120 km per hour crash had a good chance to live. The reason for this, which most people do not know, is that a sudden stop due to an accident in a car traveling at 80 km per hour has the same effect on passengers as falling from a second-floor window to the ground.
It is also worth noting that several traffic safety studies conducted in Australia and the UK found that traffic safety awareness campaigns should focus in the first place on convincing the public to use seat belts more than on reducing speed or even discouraging mobile phone use while driving. This makes sense because fastening a seat belt does not cost a driver or a passenger more time on the road, which happens when the car’s speed is reduced, nor does it cost a driver a missed phone call if they refrain from using the phone while driving the car. So, even in the absence of strict laws, a well-funded media campaign could potentially persuade a large percentage of the population to use seat belts when riding in a car. On the other hand, the following of speed limits and other traffic safety habits are less likely to be influenced by media campaigns, in the absence of strict laws and penalties.
From the foregoing, we can conclude that the fastest and easiest way to reduce the Kingdom’s deaths and disabilities resulting from injuries in traffic accidents is to convince as many citizens and residents as possible to use seat belts on every trip outside their homes, long or short.

Launching a large social media campaign simply aimed at convincing people to use seat belts could have an immediate impact on reducing the Kingdom’s traffic accident deaths.

Furthermore, since trying to reduce the actual number of traffic accidents in the Kingdom is a goal with legal, technical and administrative dimensions that may be difficult to implement in the short term, launching a large social media campaign simply aimed at convincing people to use seat belts could have an immediate impact on reducing the Kingdom’s traffic accident deaths.
Given that the primary financial beneficiaries in the Kingdom of a decrease in the number of deaths and injuries are insurance companies, it would make sense for them to be the main financiers of a seat belt safety awareness campaign, as is the case in the US with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Launching such a campaign should not be difficult as long as there is a willingness to fund high-quality viral advertisements on multiple social media platforms.
Such a campaign would also require the active participation of athletes and social media influencers so that it will have an impact on the youth, who are the most vulnerable to traffic accidents.
Since the cost of traffic accidents for the Kingdom’s economy is estimated at about SR20 billion ($5.3 billion) annually, as well as the occupation of thousands of hospital beds, it would make sense for the ministries of commerce and health to work on establishing a national commission for traffic safety, whose board members would be the CEOs of each of the Kingdom’s insurance companies. Such a commission could be funded by adding an annual subscription of only SR2 for each insurance policy issued by these companies. Since the number of vehicles in the Kingdom exceeds 20 million, the amount that can be provided to implement an educational media campaign would exceed SR40 million annually, and if this amount is divided by the Kingdom’s population, we will find that it is slightly less than what insurance companies and government agencies in the US and UK spend annually on traffic safety media education for citizens in these countries.
With the rate of seat belt use in the Kingdom estimated at less than 5 percent, an educational media campaign that raises it to a conservative estimate of 50 percent would reduce deaths and injuries in the Kingdom by 50 percent or more in less than a year. Therefore, every day that passes without the Saudi insurance companies fulfilling their national duty to society, and their financial duty to their shareholders, which is to educate Saudi society with a social media campaign urging citizens and residents to always use seat belts, is a day in which the death of many people could have been prevented, if only they had worn seat belts.

Nabil AlKhowaiter is a Saudi writer based in Alkhobar.