Contributors: Bashar Salha, Mohamad Kheir El Daouk, Rani Abu Dehn, Raoul El Khazen, Rima Wehbe.
Road Safety: Background Information
The World Health Organization estimates that around 1.3 million people die and that 30 to 50 million are injured each year due to road crashes. Despite having road safety laws instituted in almost every country, road accidents are still the leading cause of death for young people aged 5-29 years old.
In Lebanon, this problem is felt by most because of the chaotic nature of our roads. Anyone who has experienced being a passenger or a driver in Lebanon is aware of the bumpy roads, the absent traffic lights, the disregard for speed limits and safety regulations, the lack of protection for walking pedestrians, the dark tunnels and the unlit autoroutes in the night. According to the World Bank, the traffic and roads situation in Lebanon is now “amongst the worst globally” whereby it has become much more dangerous than it previously was following the start of the economic crisis in 2019.
We believe that the deteriorating status of Lebanon’s economic and social development will continue to aggravate the issue of unsafe roads and unsafe driving. So, our aim for this study is to firstly showcase to the fullest extent the details of this problem through the use of primary and secondary data sources and secondly to design an impactful solution which can be validated by relevant stakeholders.
Below is our linked interactive dashboard which showcases the details of the problem visually.
Our overall findings and comments can be summarized as follows:
1. The youth is most prone to having accidents and dying in these accidents. This is from the fact that people who are aged from 15 till 29 constituted the largest share of deaths from accidents.
2. On a geographical level, we observed that the accidents are majorly happening in the caza of Mount Lebanon and Beirut. Moreover, the bulk of the deaths are happening in the district of Baabda and Metn.
3. Collisions involving pedestrians are the most dangerous.
4. On average, people make accidents in the spring and summer breaks. From a time perspective, these accidents are evident to increase in the evening, especially on weekends.
5. On average, for 86% of all accidents, the driver is at fault. In 13% of the crashes, the pedastrian is at fault. Also, the major reason behind accidents is overspeeding, then we have reasons related to drivers and pedastirans not following road safety regulation.
The comparison between the years of 2014 and 2015 shows the impact of instituting a new law and enforcing it. As shown in the introductory dashboard, Law 243, released in April 2015, greatly influenced the traffic situation and decreased the numbers of accidents and casualties to about half the previous values.
We propose four short-term solutions that can be implemented in a close period of time and two long-term solutions which require governmental and organizational cooperation and attention.
Our Short-Term Solutions:
1. Design and launch awareness campaigns for the young people who are 15 years old or more and will be eligible to drive, especially for the 15—29 age bracket. These awareness campaigns must be designed specifically to grab the attention of the young adults and to make them sensitive to the dangers of road crashes.
2. Place reflective signs on highways, dark mountain roads and tunnels. These reflective signs are cost efficient yet effective in guiding the driver in dark places.
3. Make the traffic lights solar powered. Since Lebanon has a limited budged, these traffic lights must be placed by according to priority. For instance, we must first set them on roundabouts and intersections. These places are more prone to traffic and illegal driving and overtaking.
4. Restructure the current penalty system for road violations. These penalties must follow the current economic and foreign exchange rate conditions in order to represent an actual threat to illegal drivers.
Our Long-Term Solutions:
1. Obliging citizens with theoretical studies and technical training related to cars. This is achieved by creating a driving school which ensures that drivers are equipped which adequate driving skills and safety knowledge.
2. Creating and modifying laws to penalize people who violate road safety measures. These laws can start by a point-based driving license, where drivers will lose points every time, they violate the law. After losing all these points, the authority is ought to retract the driving license.
It is imperative that we combat this problem and that we share our findings with relevant stakeholders such as the youth, the ISF and the concerned NGOs in order to encourage this community to stay committed in their effort to rectify the Lebanese traffic issue. Hence, we have decided to email ISF representative General Imad Osman with a link to our dashboard which we will also send back to KunHadi representative Ms. Lina Gebrane who sat with us to validate our ideas.
Finally, we wish to stress on the importance of small actions that we as pedestrians and drivers can take to make our experience on the road less chaotic and stressful, being alert today means being alive tomorrow.
While one might expect to see better development outcomes after countries discover natural resources, resource-rich countries tend to have higher rates of conflict and authoritarianism, and lower rates of economic stability and economic growth, compared to their non-resource-rich neighbors. This is what has become known as the Resource Curse. Countries like Venezuela in Latin America, Angola in Africa, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East have all exhibited varying degrees of this problem. Countries suffering from the resource curse also have significantly higher rates of pollution, and those with higher GDP per capita rely less on renewable energy sources. Because those countries are also mostly authoritarian, taxes are not collected from the people and government expenditures are not monitored.
In Lebanon, the prospect of commercial gas fields has excited the people and has led the government to sign contractual agreements with drilling companies to start exploring and producing commercial gas. Many believe that this project would enrich and stabilize Lebanon, but the history of resource-rich countries predicts otherwise.
Economic Instability (related to SDG 8, 8.2): Below, we can see each country’s oil rents share of GDP, that is, the share of resource sales and exports out of total GDP. We can clearly observe that Gulf Countries and some resource-rich African countries like Libya, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and others, have oil rents account for 25 to 45% of their GDPon average for the past 30 years.
We can also see how Oil Rents move exactly in tandem with GDP Growth for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which means that their economic growth is highly dependent on oil prices and sales volume, rendering it non-sustainable.
As for economic instability, severe inflationary periods have been recorded for these countries with the Gulf’s Oil Crisis in the 1970s through 1980s and the 1990 Oil Shock which impacted the Arab World greatly, and then Venezuela’s insane inflation rate which since 2016 has increased to 53,798,500%. These trends can be observed below for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iraq and Venezuela. The inflation rate is more volatile in these countries and the consumer price indices are in a steep upward trend.
Conflict and Government Expenditures: We can see in the representation below how countries which were perceived to be most reliant on Oil Rents are also more likely to have a higher share of their GDP be dedicated to MilitaryExpenditure (SDG 16, 16.4). This indicates they are more prone to conflict, wars and social instability. Also, the lack of monitoring for governmental expenditures means that important sectors can be de-prioritized. For example, the research and development expenditures’ share of GDP is much lower in Arab countries than in Europe (SDG 9, 9.5, 16, 16.6).
The number of journal articles produced by each area of the world clearly shows the Middle East and Africa’s lower priority for innovation and scientific or scholarly research. High technology exports also have a low share of GDP in comparison with European, North American and East Asian countries.
Pollution and Environmental Impact (related to SDGs 3, 7, 7.2, 8, 8.4): The mapchart below clearly shows the high exposure to PM2.5 molecules in resource-rich countries. Despite having lower population rates and less condensed cities, the Gulf Countries are amongst the most air polluted countries. Saudi Arabia uses only oil as an energy source and has a renewable energy sources rate close to 0% (out of total consumption). The UAE also uses only natural gas to power the country and no renewable energy sources.
Solutions and Reforms: Example of Saudi Arabia
Eventually, Saudi Arabia took serious steps to diversify its economy and to become less reliant on its natural resources. It took counsel with the IMF during the early 2010s and then announced its Vision 2030 which aims for sustainable development and diversification of the economy. The data shows improvements on many levels. First of all, we can see that the GDP’s composition is shifting from being purely reliant on Oil Rents to including more activities done in the Transportation and Tourism (SDG 8, 8.9) sectors. We can also see that more Foreign Direct Investments are being made.The Military expenditures’ share of GDP is also regressing over time.
The number of journal articles published is also increasing rapidly with more and more Saudi Arabians focusing on scientific research and on new technologies (SDG 9, 9.5).
Recommendations for Lebanon
It is important to be aware of the consequences that a resource rich country may face by relying on its resource. Lebanon already has weak governance and is prone to economic instability and conflict, this is why it is especially important to learn about the reosurce curse and to keep encouraging the Lebanese people to be productive and to ensure that the governmental institutions are diversifying the economy, maintaining price stability, and producing energy from renewable resources even with natural gas being available as a resource; these concepts are especially relevant to the UN’s sustainable development goals which call for sustainable economic development, good governance, and environmental health. The data shows that proper public policy and budget controls can truly be impactful.