Auto club leads new child safety legislation in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan Government has announced new policies for compulsory Child Restraint Systems (CRS) to save lives to be introduced by the end of 2020, after campaigning by the Automobile Association of Ceylon (AAC) supported by the FIA’s Road Safety Transformation Grant, funded by the FIA Foundation.
The AAC’s campaign 'Is Your Child Safe in Your Car?' was launched lobbying for the new legislation while raising public awareness of the frequency of preventable child vehicle injury and death. The campaign targeted key decision-makers as well as using an integrated media advocacy campaign across TV, radio, publications and social media to build public support.
Following the announcement of the planned new laws by Mahinda Amaraweera, The Minister of Transport, acknowledged that AAC has been instrumental in guiding and advising the scope and target of the legislation.
In 2011, Jean Todt, President of FIA paid a visit to Sri Lanka to join AA Ceylon to launch a road safety programme. During this visit, he together with Dhammika Atygalle, President AA Ceylon, met HE Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka (during that time) to discuss the importance of conducting educational programmes on road safety and implementing the laws pertaining to traffic and to maintain road safety. Immediately after that the President instructed the Inspector General of Police to strictly implement a 'seat belt law' which was already gazetted, in order to respect the suggestions given by Jean Todt.
Devapriya Hettiarachchi, CEO and Secretary of AAC, said: “Very few parents in our country use a proper child safety car seat. We have to acknowledge the danger that this brings to our children and understand its impact on our society and health system. It is simple – if we love our children, we must protect them.”
Public CRS demonstrations have been taking place in public spaces such as libraries, shopping malls, playgrounds, pre-schools and schools across Sri Lanka for families to test and understand how the system can protect their children.
AAC launched the campaign in January with a press conference hosted by AAC President Dhammika Attygalle alongside Asia region racing champion and Goodwill Ambassador of the Club programme Dilantha Malagamuwa. The event was attended by media and major road safety stakeholders including Anton De Mens, Chairman of National Council for Road Safety and SSP Indika Hapugoda, Director of Traffic in the Department of Police to launch the campaign and this attracted attention from key regional media.
Speaking at the event, Dilantha Malagamuwa highlighted the country's challenge: “Eight to 10 people die on the road every single day in Sri Lanka and children are most vulnerable. There are simple ways to avoid this crisis and we have a duty to act.”
In its most recent radio communication AA Ceylon drew a comparison between COVID-19 and road safety crisis and asked the public if they knew that globally 186,000 children and 1.3 million people die in road crashes every year. The message highlighted that if people can act responsibly during the COVID -19 and follow safety rules set in by the government, they should pay equal attention to road safety and obeying safety rules when on the road. This is how millions of lives can be saved. The AAC plans to continue its media campaigning and public CRS demonstrations to build public awareness and support the dissemination of information on the forthcoming laws to promote behaviour change to make every child’s journey safer. It is also now involved in developing legislation for its country.