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Kunhadi reminds drivers that car accidents are number 1 cause of death in Lebanon.

Byline: Anthony Semaan

Summary: In April 2006, Hadi Gebrane, an 18-year-old university student, died in a car accident. Responding to the personal tragedy and the alarming number of traffic fatalities in Lebanon each year, Hadi's loved ones began a campaign to reform road safety in Lebanon. In October 2006, his family and friends founded an association for youth awareness on road safety called "Kunhadi" ("Be Hadi").

BEIRUT: In April 2006, Hadi Gebrane, an 18-year-old university student, died in a car accident. Responding to the personal tragedy and the alarming number of traffic fatalities in Lebanon each year, Hadi's loved ones began a campaign to reform road safety in Lebanon. In October 2006, his family and friends founded an association for youth awareness on road safety called "Kunhadi" ("Be Hadi").

Since its inception in 2006, Kunhadi's successes have made its campaigns recognizable all over the country and have even won the organization some foreign praise.

On Thursday evening Kunhadi celebrated its second anniversary by hosting a conference at the Metropolitan Palace Hotel in Beirut. The hall was packed to its maximum capacity with Hadi's family, friends, members of Kunhadi and representatives of the Red Cross in attendance.

The guests were given flyers and pins and shown to their seats as a video displayed the events Kunhadi hosted in 2008.Aa

Fadi Gebrane, Hadi's father, and his wife Lena began the conference by thanking everyone who was present and all those who had helped Kunhadi become what it is today.

Several major figures in Lebanon have showed their support for this cause, among them Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud, who sent a representative to the event on his behalf.

Following his introductory words, Gebrane offered the audience some staggering facts about car accidents in Lebanon.

According to recent studies done by the Red Cross, there have been a total of 9,546 accidents causing death or injury so far in 2008.

The same studies showed that car accidents are the number one cause of death in Lebanon and the number two cause of deaths worldwide.

Reducing the number of traffic fatalities is the major issue Kunhadi has been tackling for the past two years. The group has suggested four solutions which could, it contends, decrease car accidents by up to 50 percent; these include better roads, new laws, speed limits and radar enforcement on the roads.

Kunhadi has been able to hit its target audience through various means, including "sensitizing" the audience through the "be brave" ad campaign, educating them with short clips on TV and the Internet and targeting them through faith-based programs. Initiatives of this sort have included the creation of a list of drivers' ten commandments and the use of verses from the Holy Koran that prohibit killing.

The group has also sought to create a new safe driving culture with events like Taxi Night - parties hosted by Kunhadi that can only be attended by those arriving in taxis.

There are other events and tools that Kunhadi has used to make its presence felt. On occasions like Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and the Remembrance Day for road victims (every third Sunday in November) Kunhadi always holds a special event. The organization also participates yearly in the Beirut Marathon and regularly holds campaigns at nightclubs. It also provides perfumed cards, brochures and movies for children.

The achievements of Kunhadi have already been numerable, and the association has pledged to continue its activities, with plans for 2009 revealed during the conference.

The group will continue to visit schools and universities all across the country at least twice a week and hold Taxi Night events. New seat belt brochures will be distributed and new signs on the streets will be visible.

A colorful booklet for children will be released and a speeding campaign will commence in 2009. Daily TV tips will be broadcast on several major channels across the country and a remembrance garden has been planned to commemorate all of the road victims in the country.

Before the conference's completion three special announcements were made. The first was a presentation by Vicent Chamoun, Saatchi & Saatchi's managing director, on the new advertising campaign for Kunhadi. The second was a barrier design plan for the highway which consists of pedestrians bridges and a central reserve on the highway presented by architect and urban designer Deiv Kilby. And finally, two school pupils presented a proposed release of a board game based on road safety.

Based on the strong turnout among Hadi's friends and family members, it was clear that Hadi's absence is still being felt.

Nevertheless his loved ones renewed their commitment to use his tragic death for positive change on Lebanon's roads, with Kunhadi's message reminding all drivers to "be brave" and "drive carefully."

Copyright 2008, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Oct 18, 2008
Words:806
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