RANGOON — Aiming to reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities in Burma, APB Alliance Brewery Company Ltd. (APB ABC) and others are teaming up to launch a national road safety campaign.
The campaign launched Wednesday, one week before the Thingyan water festival, when traffic accidents in Burma related to drunk driving are higher than usual. Burma’s roads are among the most dangerous in Southeast Asia, and the government estimates that road accidents kill more than 4,000 people a year, about 12 per day.
The project is a joint effort between APB ABC, which is part of Netherlands-based Heineken Company brewery, the Burmese government’s Road Transport Administration Department (RTAD) and the Italian nongovernmental organization CESVI.
The director of corporate relations at APB ABC, Zita Schellekens, told The Irrawaddy: “One of the causes for [the high incidence of traffic fatalities] is drunk driving,” adding, “We want to share responsibility for that.”
The number of vehicles on Burma’s roads more than doubled from 2009-14, and in 2014 the World Health Organization reported that the country’s traffic death rate for every 100,000 people had more than tripled in less than a decade.
According to RTAD, there were more than 15,000 road accidents, 25,000 injuries and 4,000 deaths in 2015. The highest numbers of accidents were reported in Rangoon, Mandalay, Pegu and Irrawaddy divisions.
Schellekens said traffic accidents are often due to lack of regard for safety rules, including not wearing helmets while riding bicycles, not using seatbelts, drunk-driving, speeding or using cellphones while driving.
She said changing people’s behavior was crucial and encouraged the public to educate themselves about safe practices through social media and games, adding that the project would launch an educational app in May called Shwe Lan, meaning “Golden Road” in Burmese, and create an animated cartoon to raise awareness online.
The one-year campaign will emphasize changing road safety behaviors through mass media advocacy; using billboards, advertisements, television, radio shows and community outreach in the most dangerous regions to be on the road, starting with Rangoon, she said.