Streets for Life: UN Global Road Safety Week kicks off with a plea for lower speeds

For People and Planet.

The theme of the United Nations’ sixth Global Road Safety Week is #StreetsforLife. The week started today (May 17) and will continue until Sunday, May 23. The week also represents the launch of a new Decade of Action for Road Safety to achieve the Global Goals. Do watch the official launch on YouTube here. This will give you a sense of what the priorities are this year, in order to create liveable communities (interestingly, this is what my own urban neighborhood is striving to create, and all the problems – and possible solutions – are very real to us).

This week (and every week, in fact) the National Road Safety Council of Jamaica (NRSC), chaired by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is focused on providing streets that are safe in every sense of the word. We are not talking about just safe for private motor vehicles, their drivers and passengers – but for everyone.

This week, too, the message is an inclusive one. “Streets for Life” refers to every aspect of our lives. We work, we live, we play and travel on our streets, every day. Streets, and everyone else who uses them, are a part of our lives and as the UN’s Open Letter says: “Low speed, liveable streets are essential and urgent.”

They are urgent for several reasons. Firstly, we are painfully aware that speed kills. The 2020 Stockholm Declaration, adopted by governments worldwide, concluded that a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h is a necessity for busy areas.

Secondly, there is the uncomfortable fact that poorer communities often suffer disproportionately from dangerous roads. This would include senior citizens and people with disabilities. I believe this is true in Jamaica, too. The danger also comes from increased environmental pollution – especially air pollution and emissions that boost climate change. So, it is urgent for social equity, and urgent for public health.

Let’s also look at the impact of unsafe roads on our children and young people. The UN notes:

They are most at risk on the streets where they live, play and travel to school. Every day 3000 children and young people are killed or seriously injured on the world’s roads. A child hit by a car at 30 km/h (20 mph) can survive. Hit at 80 km/h (50 mph), most will die. Speed kills.

In Jamaica, 11 children under the age of 18 have died on our roads (up to May 18). Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter Zoleka – who visited here for a special “Slow Down” event at the Office of the Prime Minister in 2017 – herself lost her 13-year-old daughter in a car crash in 2010 and has been a major campaigner for road safety ever since, creating her own foundation. She is also involved with the Child Health Initiative. “Our governments and leaders need to take into consideration that we continue to lose so many of our young people and children to traffic accidents,” Ms. Mandela said recently.

Zoleka Mandela speaking at the Office of the Prime Minister in 2017. (My photo)

Taxi drivers, led by President of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), Mr. Egerton Newman, are set to join the call for a 30km/h speed limit in built-up areas during a road safety demonstration scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 18. They will hold up placards at the intersection of Trafalgar, Hope and Waterloo Roads, in support of the campaign. If you pass by, give them a toot on your horn! Members of the Taxi Driver’s Association and the National Road Safety Council will also be supporting the cause. 

On Thursday, May 20, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the NRSC will present a webinar for the week, with special messages from its chair, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and from Zoleka Mandela. It will be broadcast live on Nationwide News Network, and live streaming on Jamaica National’s YouTube and Facebook pages. You can click here to register. 

Do tune in for the webinar.

It truly is time to put people and Planet Earth first.

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