Traffic has always been a problem for Turkish citizens. After finding out the gap of knowledge about the signs, rules and traffic consciousness at school, we decided to point out the mistakes and educate our friends about signs and rules to save ever.
Bursa is a large city in Turkey, located in north-western Anatolia, within the Marmara Region. Being the fourth most populous city in Turkey and one of the most industrialized metropolitan centers in the country, it has a lot to offer. The city is also the administrative center of Bursa Province.
Our school, Ali Osman Sönmez Vocational and Technical High School, is one of the biggest schools in our city, with 3,185 students. We have 2,715 boys between the age of 14 and 18. They are the future drivers and some of them even currently drive their fathers’ cars or motorcycles. We do not have school buses.
In Turkey, according to the Road Traffic Accidents Statistics for 2013, 161,306 traffic accidents involving death and injury occurred. In the road network of Turkey, the total number of traffic accidents during the year 2013 was 1,207,354. 1,046,048 of the aforementioned accidents resulted in material damages, while 161,306 caused death or injury. 74.5% of the accidents resulting in death or injury occurred in inhabited areas, while 25.5% occurred in uninhabited areas.
3,685 persons were killed and 274,829 persons were injured in traffic accidents
As a result of the 161,306 accidents involving death or injury which occurred in Turkey during 2013, 3,685 people were killed and 274,829 were injured. 37.2% of deaths and 66.7% of injuries happened in inhabited areas whereas 62.8% of deaths and 33.3% of injuries occurred in uninhabited areas.
42.8% of people killed in traffic accidents were drivers.
Among the people killed in road accidents which occurred in Turkey during 2013, 42.8% of them were drivers; 39.5% were passengers; and 17.7% were pedestrians. Concerning the gender breakdown of people killed: 77% of them were men and 23% were women; whereas for the people injured 70.2% of them were men and 29.8% were women.
When looking into the statistics, we came to realize that the more information about signs and rules that we have, the more we can be on alert and conscious about keeping safe and alive.
First of all, we have made an effort to track the daily school routine, both in the school garden and out of the school gate. Students mostly come to school by public buses and these buses use New Yalova Road, which is just in front of our school. Since this road connects our city to big cities, it is quite busy with buses, trucks, cars, minibuses etc. Bursa City Bus Terminal is located next to our school. Due to the fact that this is a dangerous road, it can easily cause accidents for the pedestrians.
Our students are at risk of injury or accident not only as pedestrians but also as motorbike riders. Helmets are another important issue. Using the zebra crossing and pushing the traffic button in front of the school are really difficult when most of the students try to go home after school. There is a public bus stop just in front of the school and students leaving the school don’t always wait for the bus on the pavement. You can hear constant horns all the time if you wait just a few minutes. Our team created videos to show the mistakes regarding using sidewalks, helmets, traffic lights, signs and rules, so as to make the necessary corrections immediately.
The main problem is when you just want to move out of the school; it means you are at the heart of a very busy and dangerous walk and you have to be very careful all the time.
Understanding the traffic signs when in traffic is another serious issue to start with. We are trying to figure out the signs without understanding their meaning.
We were invited to participate in the international project "YOUR ideas, YOUR initiatives" in November 2014. Our first and most significant concern has been focused on Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility in and out of the school. We have tried to change the incorrect movement of both pedestrians and future drivers. Our school was going to be a safer place for both students and teachers at the end of the project. As our school has 3,185 students and 190 teachers, we are a big community and our first action was to measure what everyone knew about Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility. What are Risky Behaviors and Responsible Behaviors? What can we do for ourselves and others? They needed answers to these questions.
We set out to create and improve an awareness project.
We made a plan to set out our activities:
1- We prepared a simple but practical survey and a questioner to learn their knowledge level about traffic signs and rules. We were surprised to learn that they seemed to know everything on paper but after we went further, we realized that they had many misunderstandings. We applied the surveys to all grades. They ticked some of the questions but did not know the right answer; for example, they got confused and disagreed with each other about what the right speed limit was. This encouraged us to make some actions more visual.
2- We watched the school entrance and exit time in the morning and afternoon and saw that many students did not know how to cross the road after getting off the bus when two buses stopped one after the other. We recorded many videos of jaywalking and faulty crossings between the vehicles. We warned them to use the zebra crossing and sidewalks.
3- Our project team needed to find some financial support and had some meetings with big companies in Bursa. Fortunately, they were able to get support from an airport travel agency. Traffic signs and rules were prepared and both sides of the fifty-three doors in and outside of the school were covered with these big signs. We made markings of the traffic signs on the school corridors in A and B blocks. To increase traffic awareness, we transformed our school corridors into roadways. The aim was to attract the students, both in and out of the classroom. In such a big school, communication had to be provided via posters, advertisements and other visual materials to reach more and more people.
4- Meanwhile, the Project Team arranged a conference with the help of the Traffic Department of the Turkish Police and they gave a speech about the rules and signs. The students looked at traffic accidents in the educational segment and they were advised about what to do as passengers, pedestrians, motorbike riders, bikers and drivers-to-be.
5- Another step was to have a meeting with the assistant governors to disseminate our project idea and get a moral support for brochures and leaflets. The team also had a meeting with the Bursa Municipality and got the necessary documents and support for the upcoming actions.
6- The Computer Technology Department in our school gave us full support to create a project logo. Out of many participants, we chose one logo with the title, ‘I Am Not A Traffic Monster Anymore.’ This logo was used on t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, wall ads and flags. Out of the school exit gate, we prepared a big flag, and the significant feature of the flag was that each letter had many traffic signs. The people and drivers were attracted to our ongoing project.
7- The Textile Technology Department helped us to prepare the shirts, sweatshirts, flags and posters. The students were successful printing our project logo on the materials.
8- During our exam week, our exam team decided to put the traffic signs on exam papers to create awareness; they asked the students about the meaning of the signs and the students tried to achieve the best score.
9- Another issue was the use of helmets and students with motorbikes. We have a motor park in our garden and we realized that most of the students did not use helmets. We warned them to use helmets and we made a rule that if they did not have helmets, they would not enter the school. This rule was signed by our headmaster to both save their lives and educate them.
10- Some of our students made videos about parking rules. They wandered around our school and found many vehicles which parked in the special lanes reserved for disabled people. These lanes were designed for their use; parking in these lanes prevented disabled people from using them and they had to use the main road or step off the sidewalks, which was really risky. The students pointed out this risky behavior and they placed some brochures on the windshield wipers of the each car saying ‘Please do not park here. This is for disabled people or people in wheelchairs.’ They felt the responsibility to point out the mistake.
11- As they come to school on buses, they noticed many mistakes on the buses and they shared them on our Facebook page.
12- Many students acted on the videos and they uploaded them on our Facebook page. All the videos, photos, pictures, slogans, poems were designed and presented with their effort and each sign was translated into English. Different grades shared their videos, photos and PowerPoints to communicate and be one of the voices of the project. Every single detail was uploaded on the web-page and on our school web-page.
13- We made a school magazine and our project was covered in 2 pages.
14- As our school has 6 blocks, we decided to find a suitable place for more sharing. With the help of an overhead projector, we projected the pictures and we painted them.
Three pictures were chosen to paint by different grades on the big wall which was just between the classes and dining hall.
15- We gave out some brochures and leaflets in and around the school. We handed them out to the drivers of buses and minibuses on New Yalova Street, to passengers and students at the bus stop in front of the school, pedestrians etcetera.
16- We had a return visit to the Traffic Department to thank them for their seminars and support.
In such a big and crowded school, we know that we created awareness and togetherness to help and teach each other. This is a great pleasure to be selected for the contest from our city, Bursa, and we have proudly presented what we can do as project citizens. We have tried to prevent risky and irresponsible behaviours by acting as the actors of prevention. We have currently completed our mission but we have not given up brainstorming and improving our ideas about Traffic Safety for future actions.