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Personal safety: Staying healthy behind the wheel

Ever felt ill or tired while driving? For truck drivers who spend their lives on the road, poor health conditions can threaten their safety and that of other road users. In Turkey, a travelling “road show” with a mobile health clinic is taking vital health checks and safety information to truck drivers who may be unaware of the personal risks they face.


Location: Turkey

Surprises such as horse-drawn carts or cars without headlights at night can pose risks. The number of road deaths is 10 times higher than in France or Germany.

How it works

A seven-vehicle convoy of doctors, safety experts and other professionals travelled to 17 events at service stations in 10 cities across Turkey.  

What’s unique?

This was the first time truckers in Turkey had the chance to visit road safety booths and demonstrations and take advantage of free vision, hearing and health check-ups at truck stops.


A 55-year-old professional driver pulled his 18-wheeled truck into the Shell Extra Break service station in Antalya City, unaware that he had a serious heart condition. Dr Selcuk Kilinc was offering free health and vision check-ups in the mobile medical clinic. He discovered the driver’s condition and recommended proper medical treatment.

The driver underwent a coronary bypass operation and now is at less risk of having a heart attack at the wheel. “When truck drivers have certain health conditions, it can prove fatal because of their jobs. For example, uncorrected poor vision can lead to accidents,” Dr Kilinc said. “This was a life-saving project.”

working together

Across the world road accidents are a major cause of fatalities, making road safety a priority for many governments, firms and organisations.On Sakhalin Island, Russia, poor roads and the lack of safe driving practices made driving risky. Sakhalin Energy (Shell interest 27.5%) wanted to protect its drivers working on a project to develop natural gas and oil. It teamed up with the government, the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) and representatives from more than 25 other businesses and organisations.


Location: Sakhalin Island, Russia

On Russia’s largest island, rutted, unpaved roads can be slick with ice or impassable because of mud or snow.

What’s unique?

The first concerted effort to improve road safety on Sakhalin Island, using a number of tactics that were new to the region – including the first seat-belt campaign in Russia.

In 2011 alone, car accidents dropped by 9.4% with a 2.4% decrease in deaths and a 7.9% reduction in injuries.

How it works

When Sakhalin Energy began the world’s largest integrated oil and gas development on Sakhalin Island, it needed to transport 25,000 people, 700,000 tonnes of steel and 525,000 tonnes of pipeline safely through the taiga wilderness.

It teamed up with the Global Road Safety Partnership and Sakhalin Oblast Government in 2005 to organise a broad coalition of local organisations to improve road safety.

The coalition has launched public awareness campaigns over the use of seat belts, child car seats and other safe practices, while the government tightened seat-belt laws and the police cracked down on offenders.

It also placed first-aid kits in police vehicles and trains more than 70 doctors and nurses each year.


“By forming partnerships or collaborations to address road safety challenges, the impact is so much bigger,” says Pieter Venter, CEO of the GRSP.

“The Sakhalin partnership project, like other projects supported by the GRSP, serves as motivation for similar initiatives to be started.”

community education

Globally, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for 10-19-year olds. Early safety education can help keep children safe. In Singapore, the Shell Traffic Games teach children about the dangers on the roads by allowing them to drive tiny pedal-carts on a specially designed track. Long a national tradition, the games are evolving to convey the road safety message in a changing society.

Location: Singapore

Traffic can be very heavy but is well managed and driving rules are enforced.

How it works

Children aged seven to 16 compete with pedal-carts on a simulated road track to learn road safety rules. Students from 20 primary schools participate in preliminary challenges and the five winning schools compete at the national challenge.

Grandparents play the role of pedestrians, while pre-school-aged children learn how to cross a road safely and ride a small bicycle with training wheels.

Participants also share what they have learned with other children and family members to influence their safety practices.

The games serve as a platform for additional community education programmes on road safety.

What’s unique?

More than 50 years after the Shell Traffic Games were launched in Singapore they remain the only event of their kind here and have spread throughout South-east Asia.

Now the games are adapting to changing demographics by involving grandparents, who are often primary caregivers today as more parents enter the workforce.

Pre-school children now take part as well to improve safety awareness at a younger age.


Izzati binte Kassim visited Singapore’s Road Safety Community Park with her grandfather, Rohani bin Andam, for Shell’s annual Traffic Games.

Along with hundreds of other 10-11 year-olds she rode a go-cart on the park’s simulated streets to learn rules and win prizes. Her grandfather joined other adults to play pedestrians.

Pre-school children gathered in a large tent to learn how to cross streets and safely ride small bicycles equipped with training wheels.

Izzati memorised rules, such as “Give way to pedestrians” and, seeing the value, she says: “When I have kids, I might even bring them to this park.”

driving training

In Iraq, many drivers who have never been trained or licensed to drive travel on crumbling roads damaged or neglected during years of conflict. This lethal combination contributes to the world’s fourth-highest fatality rate. Shell launched a range of measures to help support the local government in tackling the challenges, including dredging a canal for transporting equipment by barge instead of truck and training local drivers to improve driving standards. Drivers’ new respect for safety is slowly filtering into the wider driving community.

Location: Basra, Iraq

Neglected roads make driving hazardous. And from 2003 to 2011, the government did not issue driving licences so there was no need for drivers to learn how to drive correctly.

How it works

Local residents are trained to become trainers. They hold defensive driving classes, which are required for all Shell employees, contractors and others who drive on company business.

To make sure drivers continue to follow the strict rules, Shell’s safety team uses in-vehicle monitoring systems to check for speeding, harsh acceleration and sudden braking.

This information is shared with the drivers to improve their skills. Trainers believe the drivers are sharing their new habits with friends and families.

What’s unique?

The programme provides the only formal training many of the Iraqi drivers have ever received.

Drivers who pass the training report that companies are willing to pay them more than before. The approach trains future trainers, which creates employment and spreads the benefits.


Nader Dakheel, an engineer in Iraq’s oil and gas industry, took a certain way of driving for granted.

To him, it seemed normal for people to drive too fast, ignore traffic rules, honk at pedestrians who got in the way, and drive on the wrong side of the road – often at night with no headlights.

“In Iraq there is traditionally no culture of wearing seat belts, following warning signs on the road, or respecting speed limits,” says Nader.

When he took Shell’s defensive driving course he learned to plan a safe journey and check that his car is roadworthy every day.

He also learned to follow basic rules, such as using seat belts and maintaining a safe distance from other cars.

“I already had 25 years’ driving experience but, thanks to a good experience with the defensive driving course, I am now a safer driver,” he says.  “The training requires you to stick to special rules. For example the speed limit around Majnoon is 40km/h on unpaved roads. We have to report into a journey manager who plans and monitors our journeys with safety in mind.”