And the first Road Heroes Award goes to …

Ari Seirlis is the first-ever winner of the Road Heroes Award for his work on improving awareness around road safety.

The Road Ethics Project (REP), in partnership with the Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa (OTASA), announced that former QASA CEO Ari Seirlis is its inaugural Road Heroes Award winner. This award is aimed at celebrating an individual dedicated to improving road safety and assisting families affected by road crashes, and who has shown leadership in mobilising society to reduce road traffic injuries and deaths.

“While we had many worthy nominees all meeting these criteria, Seirlis was head and shoulders above the others because of the sheer scale of his impact over many, many years,” says founder of REP Lee Randall. “He injected a strong road safety focus into QASA’s activities while also building it to a prominent, successful and sustainable disability rights NGO.

“He empowered wheelchair users to interact with broader society around the critically important message, ‘Buckle up, we don’t want new members’. He also developed international prominence, which resulted in the United Nations choosing South Africa, along with New York, for the setting of a road safety film that has been viewed by people all over the world.”

The 2016 film titled “Road Safety – Global Killer” can be viewed here.

In addition to receiving a certificate from REP, Seirlis will also receive a cash prize of R5 000 sponsored by MasterDrive.

“I am honoured and humbled to receive the 2019 Road Heroes Award,” Seirlis says about his win. “In my tenure as CEO of QASA, I ensured that the organisation invested in the prevention of spinal cord injuries and disability – as should all NGOs in the disability sector.

“We came up with some innovative prevention programmes of which the most significant was our ‘Buckle up, we don’t want new members’ campaign. It created awareness among South African road users of the importance of using a seatbelt, but also formed a strong partnership for QASA with the Department of Transport and the Road Accident Fund.”

He adds that the programme also provided employment for QASA members in all the regional associations. “QASA got wonderful recognition from the public who recognised the slogan and understood that QASA was not asking for anything except their safety. Strategically, the campaign was a wonderful value proposition. I’m very grateful for the recognition,” Seirlis concludes.

The award is only one of the ways in which REP plans to address road safety in South Africa. Essentially, the organisation aims to get society talking about responsible and ethical road use. “This will be done in a variety of ways, including public speaking, hosting think-tanks and workshops as well as producing fact sheets, articles and reports,” Randall explains. The initiative will also assist in determining the road safety measures that will be the most beneficial for saving lives and preventing injuries.

Unlike other road safety organisations that focus on training or addressing road structures, REP is focused on undesirable or immoral aspects of the traffic system, including unroadworthy vehicles being used for public or scholar transport, government inefficiencies or corruption, and road infrastructure.

“Road safety is a shared responsibility that involves not only blame responsibility (like the finger-pointing to which minibus taxi drivers are often subjected) but also causal responsibility and forward-looking responsibility,” Randall says.

With the festive season looming, she encourages all road users to be the road heroes in their own circle of influence. “Drivers need to remember that vehicles can easily become killing machines. We have ethical duties to prevent this. Pedestrians, cyclists, runners and users of two-wheeled vehicles need to remember that the road traffic system, in its current form, is a dangerous place for you. Be vigilant,” she says.

“Above all, bear in mind that speed combined with human frailty and error are a toxic mix! We can’t make ourselves physically invincible, nor can we completely eliminate human error – however, we can certainly focus on keeping to speeds that are safe for the circumstances.  Don’t turn the ‘festive season’ into a mourning period – it’s just not worth it,” she concludes.

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