Saving Lives, One Hash Tag at A Time

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

Most people use Twitter for frivolous updates, like what they ate for lunch or which celebrity was just spotted without make-up. However, this past week a university student in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) used the social micro-blogging platform to bring attention to a burgeoning problem that affects not only the Sheikdom but also the whole Middle East.

The Middle East region has a higher percentage of deaths by road accidents than anywhere else in the world. Blame it on the fast cars, lack of driver’s education or poor policing, death by driving is a reality every day on the roads in the region. According to a report conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), UAE residents are “…seven times more likely to die in a car accident than those living in the UK.” Car accidents are the secondary cause of death for adults in the UAE and, alarmingly, the primary cause of death for children. Seatbelt and car seat laws are officially on the books, but they are rarely obeyed or enforced.

For university student Sara Al Balooshi seeing a car accident occur right in front of her eyes, while on the way to class this week, was just too much to bear. She took to Twitter to lament dangerous driving in the sheikhdom and seemingly overnight a social activist was born. Using the hash tag “#dangerdriving”, Al Balooshi’s tweets about the dangers that lurk once you get behind the wheel took the Internet by storm. It became the number one trending hash tag on Twitter in the UAE for a full three days.

As a result of her conscientious tweets, Al Balooshi’s plight got the attention of local authorities who decided to launch a joint initiative to help educate people about the dangers of driving and ways to be more safe. Al Balooshi has joined forces with the “UAE Together” campaign, which was inaugurated this past spring as a means for traffic authorities to educate the populous on safe driving measures.  Once again, Twitter was used to announce the new cooperative between Al Balooshi and traffic authorities with the hash tag “#DriveSafelyUAE”. The new hash tag allows fellow Twitter users to share their tips and advice to promote traffic safety in the country.


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