Today we have been remembering those whose lives were suddenly taken from them. They leave a void in the lives of many. According to the Ministry of Transport’s weekly report, 370 people have died on our roads this year – whether pedestrians, drivers, cyclists or motorcyclists. Most alarmingly, child fatalities and motorcyclist fatalities are expected to increase by 24% and 29% by the end of the year, compared to 2018.
How many have been injured in car crashes this year? I don’t know, but I can imagine there are thousands who are suffering. My deepest condolences to all of those who are mourning, in pain and despair. We must have more respect for life – each other’s, and our own.
Here is the Prime Minister’s message:
Jamaica once again joins nations across the globe in commemorating the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
As we devise strategies to improve road safety and driving behavior, we pause to remember those who died or were injured in road crashes. Fatal crashes leave a trail of untold grief, painful loss for the persons involved and the family and friends.
Despite the gains of the past which currently reflects stability in eight of the ten road user categories, the Government remains concerned at the high level of fatalities. In particular motorcyclists and pedestrians account for increases of 37 percent and 23 percent, respectively, over 2018.
The focus on reducing pedestrian fatalities is ongoing, but the problem that has emerged with motorcycle fatalities is currently getting special attention through a Working Group that I have tasked with implementing recommendations formulated by the National Road Safety Council (NRSC). We have had some progress in moving to ensure motorcyclists obtain a Driver’s License. this work is significant as the majority are unlicensed. A major part of this initiative is to move this group towards use of safety devices, particularly helmet, as over 90 percent of those that died were not wearing the safety gear. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that correct helmet use can lead to a 42 percent reduction in the risk of fatal injuries and a 69 percent reduction in the risk of head injuries.
Up to November 15 of this year, 370 Jamaicans were killed in 330 fatal crashes, compared with 328 and 290 respectively for 2018. Sadly, on this trajectory we are likely to exceed the figure for both death and injuries for 2018. It is regrettable, given that it is the choices made by road users and the outright disregard for the rules of the road that have brought us to this point.
The recently adopted Road Traffic Act (RTA), once brought into operation, will herald a new day in facilitating the implementation of the UN/WHO Safe Systems Approach, specifically for safer road users, as it relates to driver training and certification. For the first time, all drivers (vehicles, motorcycles) will have to pass the road code before getting a Learner’s Permit.
New also will be the requirement for driver retraining for repeat offenders. Also, drivers over a specified age will need to pass a medical examination, to ensure that the ability to drive is not compromised by health issues that can come with aging.
The Government is also placing priority on improving the traffic ticketing systems to improve payment of traffic fines. Introduction of electronic equipment, restoring the demerit points system and upgrading of the operations of the Island Traffic Authority to include more fraud prevention systems, are all critical work streams currently in progress.
For the upcoming Christmas season there is the usual appeal for drivers to reduce speed and the police to increase presence and speed control. Indeed, studies have indicated that a five percent reduction in average speed can lead to a thirty percent reduction in average fatalities. This is significant in the context of the reality of 400-plus deaths facing us for 2019. For 2020, if drivers comply, the result would be a thirty percent reduction, translating to less than 300 deaths next year.
I thank the National Road Safety Council and all the public and private sector agencies that continue to work hard to promote road safety.
While we remember those lost, let us pray for the injured; the caregivers; the emergency response workers and the families and friends of all who are affected in some way.
Let us also commit to doing our part, whether as road users, by taking personal responsibility for our safety, or as leaders, managers or personnel entrusted to implement safe road use policy and systems in Jamaica.
The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP