Ramadan is a special month for Muslims around the world during which sunset each day marks the observance of Iftar. Iftar is the evening meal, when traditionally, families and communities come together to break their daily fasting ritual. In recent years, Ramadan, per the Islamic calendar, has been occurring in the northern summer which sees extended hours between sunrise and sunset, and with that, extended fasting periods.
This can represent some unique challenges on the roads coupling a ‘rush hour’ immediately before the Iftar (during which speed is an all too common infringement) with the effects of increased driver fatigue and distraction due to lengthened fast periods resulting in an increase in incidents of road crash during the month of Ramadan.
As a traditional time of coming together, it is rewarding to see that during Ramadan, the sectors involved in road safety collaborate at heightened levels to combat and respond to the increased trend of road crashes.
- During Ramadan, government departments and ministries involved in road safety and response across the region are at their highest level of alert preparedness.
- In Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and many other countries, enforcement operations are intensified near mosques, in residential areas, malls and other public spaces. Together with enforcement operations, traffic police distribute leaflets, give advice to drivers and pedestrians and also hand out Iftar food packs.
- The media is heavily engaged during the period issuing appeals and warnings for all road users to show more vigilance. Social Media campaigns are launched targeting young drivers.
- In Indonesia, there was a strong focus on the use of public transport over private vehicles, particularly the use of motorcycles.
- The private sector also plays its part with representatives from the oil and gas, automotive and insurance industries, including many GRSP members, using their communication channels to promote safety:
- Bridgestone in Oman issued safety tips on driver fatigue coupled with tyre fatigue.
- Michelin in UAE has a long history of safety campaigns focussed on the unique challenges of the period.
- Toyota launched a new road safety initiative in Saudi Arabia.
- In Malaysia Shell offered free 15-point car inspections, and in Morocco, through Vivo Energy, Shell raised awareness along key corridors through distribution of information packs and first aid kits.
- Civil Society too plays a crucial role with Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies providing often life saving work as first responders throughout much of the Muslim world. As an example, the Saudi Red Crescent Society paramedics were placed on 24 hour Ramadan alert, with many having to postpone their own Iftar celebrations to help those injured on the roads.
It is often said within the global road safety community that ‘no one body can solve road safety alone’. It is the coming together of all agencies, much like we see during Ramadan, that should encourage us all to understand and embrace that just as the problem of road safety belongs to us all, so too does the solution.