Senior Wins Davis Award for Traffic Sign Project

Nebiyat Esubalew ’21 will put up road safety signs outside schools in Ethiopia.

By Dashiell Allen ’21 | April 19, 2021

Congratulations to neuroscience major Nebiyat Esubalew  ’21, who won the Davis Projects for Peace Award to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this summer to work on traffic safety. Nebiyat will install road signs in front of eleven schools in order to protect school children from life-threatening road and traffic accidents (RTAs).

Ethiopia has some of the most dangerous roads in the world. In 2019, over 30,000 Ethiopians lost their lives to RTAs, according to the World Health Organization; such accidents are also considered to be a leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Nebiyat says that RTAs in Ethiopia are systemic—exacerbated by the blurring of car and pedestrian lanes, the absence of traffic lights at many intersections, and distracted drivers who often neglect rules. 

Growing up in Ethiopia, she was constantly reminded of the dangers posed by reckless drivers. “It’s hard to escape road traffic accidents,” she says. “You hear about them every day all over the news.” This is an issue that Nebiyat has wanted to address for a long time—she worried about her own safety walking to school, and about her father who regularly traveled across the country for work.

Nebiyat plans to enlist support from the schools—two of which she attended herself—to help install the signs and will launch a campaign on social media to recruit volunteers.

Nebiyat credits Shania Siron at the Center For Life Beyond Reed for helping her develop the project. She also thanks her thesis advisor, Prof. Suzy Renn, and her supervisors at Reed's Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Kori Lay and April Sams. “My Reed education helped me become a problem solver,” she says. “Reed helped me to see that there’s no point in learning if you’re not going to go out there and do something with it.”

Founded in 2007, Davis Projects for Peace offers undergraduate students $10,000 for one summer to carry out a grassroots project promoting peace and conflict resolution anywhere in the world. 


Tags: Awards & Achievements, Cool Projects, International, Life Beyond Reed, Service, Students