Meet Connector Champion Shahad Ballan

How there is someone who is trying to bring a change. This person, once a victim of speeding on the road, is asking drivers to 'speed up' to feel the adrenaline rush and to feel the power of control. However, the twist is she is asking them to ‘Speed Legally’ on professional tracks under strict supervision, which will give the driver the much-needed thrill without putting the lives of others at risk. 

Connector met with Shahad Ballan, the MBC1 presenter, who has started a new campaign named ’Speed Legally’ to bring more awareness on the dangers of speeding. Here’s what she has to say: 

Please Explain Your Campaign #SpeedLegally, And How You Developed The Idea From Scratch?

I overcame a life-changing accident around four years ago. Ever since I decided that there needed to be more awareness about speeding. I spent a challenging time recovering and watching my loved ones around me getting impacted. As soon as I recovered, I knew that every negative incident can be turned around and used positively and thus started my journey to raising more awareness. Not necessarily bad, but speeding is off limits on the roads. I think, as a society, we need to address the importance of safe speed limits a bit more. My campaign #SpeedLegally with Dubai Autodrome, who are Dubai’s first fully integrated multipurpose motorsports and entertainment complex, focused on speeding contained to race tracks only. As I said, I believe speeding isn’t bad, it can be a good sport, an adrenaline rush, but as long as we do it responsibly, keeping in mind that our roads are not race tracks.

The thought behind my campaign is to raise awareness about the consequences of speeding, overtaking, and not abiding by the traffic rules and regulations on the road. I want people to know that there is a place for them to speed, to drive for the fun of it; but our roads are not for speeding. You are around other people, safety of your own health and those of others around you on the road in very important.

What Is The One Big Challenge To Running This Campaign And Sending The Right Massage Across?

The biggest challenge has to be making people really believe and care about it. All people know that speeding on roads is not okay but seldom do they realise the hazards. I think each one of us has had a personal experience or can relate to a friend or relative’s experience with road accidents, yet we forget it the next minute. Our roads and infrastructure are made with the best possible standards here in the UAE, yet why do we see so many accidents? Everyone knows how it can affect negatively but now everyone thinks about doing better or speaking about it. My main aim was for people to think about it at least and become more aware when they are on roads, they are not alone but have other people around them. Responsibility is everything.

During Your Talks With People On Why People Speed Up, Were There Any Answers That Were Shocking And ‘Unreasonable’?

Yes and no. Most people took it well because it came from me and I have an incident that I address from my own life. People want to understand and feel what I am trying to say, which has been great.

However, there are some who argue that ‘what has to happen will happen’ or something along the lines of ‘everything happens for a reason’. While I do of course agree to the quotes, I fail to use these as an excuse. We live in cities, with infrastructure, laws and rules. As educated, responsible citizens we are supposed to drive within speed limits and abide by the laws. Yes, accidents might still happen then, but when speed is in control, you are in control.

One of the guests shared her story as well, and connected with us, sharing how she lost a family member due to road safety. We were so happy and proud when she overcame her fear and went behind the wheels and zoomed the race tracks. This is our goal with reaching people and the campaign.

What Are Your Future Plans To Take This Campaign To The Next Level?

The campaign is on-going and #SpeedLegally with Dubai Autodrome was just a part of it. Our message is to reach to the youngsters in schools, universities and students just learning to drive. It is a huge part of our day to day, if we think about it and more than just technicalities and theories, we need to work a right approach.

We are also planning to visit universities and speak to student councils in order to reach the maximum number of people. We would love to work on a campaign with the RTA, Yas Marina Circuit and also with the driving schools in the city.

This is a non-profit cause and my team, supporters and I are just looking to get the word out and reach as many people as we can with our message. We want people to connect with us, listen to our story and think for just a minute.

We are working hard to come up with ideas that are eye-catchy and that grab attention. Let’s wait for us to reveal the next one in line! 

What Is The One Key Message That You Would Like To Give Through Your Own Experience? 
My message to everyone is that, our lives are precious and beautiful. We need to take care of ourselves and those around us. Speeding is in the moment but the impacts can last for a lifetime. Think responsibly, for yourself and others on the road.

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