Please, prevent further road deaths

Friday, December 28, 2018

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The latest traffic crash data from the Ministry of Mining and Transport's Road Safety Unit are not, by any means, encouraging. In fact, the unit is projecting that, based on the current trend, road fatalities for 2018 will increase by 16 per cent, compared with last year.

That is a most daunting projection which dampens the hope we had expressed earlier this year when it appeared that road deaths were on the decrease.

However, the latest statistics issued by the Road Safety Unit, covering the period January 1 to December 27, tell us that so far a total of 373 people have been killed in 330 fatal crashes. These represent increases of 13 per cent and 17 per cent respectively when compared with the same period in 2017.

According to the unit, pedestrians accounted for 21 per cent of road users killed; private motor vehicle drivers accounted for 19 per cent; private motor vehicle passengers, 14 per cent; while motorcyclists accounted for 26 per cent.

Vulnerable road users — defined by the unit as pedestrians, pedal cyclists, motorcyclists, and pillions — accounted for 57 per cent of road deaths since the start of the year.

All this despite consistent appeals by the National Road Safety Council, the Road Safety Unit, the police and other relevant authorities for Jamaicans to drive responsibly.

Of great concern to us is the fact that since the start of this year 13 Jamaicans in the 0-14 age group have so far been killed in road crashes, up from 10 over the same period last year. We had expected that drivers would have acted with more care for the fact they were transporting children.

With three days left to complete 2018 we are hoping that the recklessness that has so far claimed 22 lives on public holidays this year will not be on display.

Against that background, we reiterate our appeal to Jamaicans to drive, ride, and walk with care on the roads. It cannot be beyond us to get this problem under control, as not only is it diminishing our human resources, but is proving a financial drain on our health services and leaving families in emotional pain.

However, we are aware that the indiscipline we see on the roads daily, especially among route taxi drivers, operators of Coaster buses and motorcyclists, will not be curbed without enforcement of the law governing road use.

After five years, the new Road Traffic Act was finally approved by Parliament earlier this month. However, it is unlikely to be implemented before next April as the regulations, we are told, will require another three to four months to be drafted.

That cannot happen too soon, for as Senator Kamina Johnson Smith told the Upper House when the Act was passed: “We have to act now, as too many lives are being lost to wanton road terror… and the simple truth is that these bad practices have continued because of the failure of the legislative framework to provide an enforcement mechanism to make undisciplined road users accountable for their actions.”

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