A road safety NGO marked its ninth anniversary Wednesday with the launch of a Taxi Academy, the first school of its kind in Lebanon.
“We are launching this academy to guarantee the safest rides to the people of this country,” Kunhadi Vice President Lena Gebran told The Daily Star during the event, held at the headquarters of the Hazmieh Municipality. “After partying or going out with friends, some [people] take taxis, and we need to make sure that these are safe.”
Gebran and her husband started Kunhadi in 2006 to raise awareness about road safety, following the loss of their son, Hadi, in a road accident that involved driving under the influence.
“The academy has several objectives,” said Kaven Noine, a trainer. “We want to make sure that the taxis are safe and clean, and that the drivers drive slowly and according to the new traffic law. We also want to teach them how to deal with drunk front-seat passengers.”
The event celebrated the organization’s achievements over the past nine years, and provided a glimpse of its future aspirations.
“Tonight, we are showing that Kunhadi is serving civil society, protecting youth, and creating a brighter future for taxi drivers,” Noine said. “This academy is all about awareness.”
Road accidents are the main cause of death for people aged 15 to 29. According to World Health Organization statistics highlighted by Kunhadi President Fadi Gebran, Lina’s husband, more than 1 million people die in road accidents each year.
During his speech, Gebran emphasized the importance of the new traffic law. The law, which went into effect in April, punishes offenses such as driving without a license, driving under the influence of drugs or with a blood alcohol level exceeding 1 gram per liter, and exceeding the speed limit by more than 60 km/ph.
“There are 850 people who die on the road annually, which is equivalent to 71 victims a month in Lebanon,” Gebran said. “It means that there still are 142 future victims, before the end of this year.”
During his speech, Gebran mentioned “Target Zero,” one of Kunhadi’s most prominent initiatives launched few months ago with the aim of bringing the number of car accident victims to zero in the southern village of Maghdoushe.
“We want new roads with new solar energy lighting, ... more sidewalks and a department dedicated to road accidents with 16 volunteers, for us to reach zero victims in the town of Maghdoushe,” he explained. Much of the infrastructure has already been installed.
Some of Lebanon’s best-known figures attended the Kunhadi event, including Miss Lebanon 2015, Valerie Abou Chacra, and Mr. Lebanon 2015, Fareed Matar.
By Yasmina El Sabeh
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