- The initiative aims to further heighten awareness among all road users of the need to exercise greater caution.
- Statistics show that upwards of 200 persons have died from over 190 traffic accidents since January.
- The Ministry’s campaign includes a series of road shows to be rolled out over the next three months.
The Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, through its Road Safety Unit, is renewing efforts to influence behaviour change among road users islandwide, particularly motorists, through its current public education campaign.
Themed – ‘Walk, Ride and Drive for Life’ – the initiative aims to further heighten awareness among all road users of the need to exercise greater caution and care when traversing the nation’s thoroughfares, as the authorities endeavour to keep fatalities below the 300 mark.
Statistics show that upwards of 200 persons have died from over 190 traffic accidents since January. The fatalities include four students of Holmwood Technical High School in Manchester, who succumbed to injuries sustained in a two-vehicle collision in the parish on September 25, while travelling to school.
Mindful of the significant losses, dislocation, and inconvenience resulting from these tragedies, the Ministry, in partnership with a number of key private and state agencies and stakeholders, has moved to initiate the programme, which should not only be effective in capturing the public’s attention, but will successfully curb errant behaviour on the roads, thus reducing crashes and fatalities.
Key partner stakeholders include: the Road Maintenance Fund (RMF), Road Safety Unit, National Road Safety Council (NRSC), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Transport Authority (TA), Island Traffic Authority (ITA), Ministry of Education, Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, WISYNCO Group Limited, National Baking Company, Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA), and the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ).
The Ministry’s campaign includes a series of road shows to be rolled out over the next three months, and incorporates entertainment, deemed a guaranteed crowd puller.
In this regard, they have secured the endorsements and services of several popular entertainers and media personalities, who should serve as drawing cards.
They include popular dancehall duo, Voicemail; songstress, Tanya Stephens; multiple festival song winner, Roy Rayon; and media personality, Jennifer ‘Jenni Jenni’ Small.
The campaign, which is being rolled out over four legs, kicked off on Saturday, September 28 in Kingston, and made stops in Spanish Town and Old Harbour, St. Catherine, and May Pen, Clarendon.
The second leg takes place in Port Maria, St. Mary, and Ocho Rios and St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann on October 26; the third rolls into Falmouth, Trelawny; Montego Bay, St. James; and Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland on November 16. The campaign culminates on December 14 in Black River and Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth; and Mandeville, Manchester.
Speaking at the campaign’s launch at the Half-Way Tree transport centre in St. Andrew on September 27, Minister without Portfolio in the Transport, Works and Housing Ministry, with oversight for road safety, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, stressed that the “need for action” to improve road safety “is most critical and crucial at this time, as we only serve to hinder our growth and development with the spate of accidents on our streets.”
He also noted the significant economic impact which road accidents have on Jamaica’s economy.
“Billions are expended on police resources to deter bad road behaviour and to respond to, and investigate cases after accidents. Billions are (also) used to equip hospitals to handle emergency cases and dispense medication, and it costs insurance companies billions in payouts resulting from many avoidable mishaps,” the Minister said.
“It also costs you drivers, when your insurance rates go up, due to the high rate of accidents. On that point, it is clearly noted that safety has to be the cheapest and most effective insurance policy,” he added.
Dr. Guy pointed to World Bank statistics which indicate that over 1.3 million people die in road accidents globally, each year. Of significance, he noted, is that over 70 per cent of those fatalities occur in developing countries, like Jamaica.
The Minister explained that through the latest campaign, “Jamaica (is) playing its role in the push to reduce road deaths and, by extension, protect the wellbeing of this nation.”
In her remarks, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Audrey Sewell, lamented the loss of lives, and voiced particular concern that children and the elderly comprise approximately 25 per cent of the fatalities recorded so far this year.
“Almost everybody in Jamaica has suffered some pain with what is happening on our roads (and) I am concerned about safety on our roads, especially the treatment of children, the elderly and (other) vulnerable road users in the traffic environment,” she said.
“This (campaign) might not be a panacea for all the ills of our road situation. But if we can (promote) road safety… through the positive messages we intend to send, then we will go a far way at curbing the negative behaviour out there. Each one has a part to play and I am appealing to all of us to let it begin with us,” the Permanent Secretary added, while urging public support for the scheduled activities.
Meanwhile, Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, voiced concern about existing and potential perils facing the nearly 700,000 children commuting to school daily, and stressed that “any campaign to improve road safety must, in fact, begin with them and special care must be offered to them.”
Deputy Police Commissioner, Glenmore Hinds, pledged the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) commitment to doubling their efforts to ensure that errant road users are “brought to book.” He also urged the public to play their part to reduce the carnage.
“It is no longer the time for us to wring our hands or for us all to say ‘it’s not us, it’s not our workers’. It is the business and responsibility of all of us. We all must take personal responsibility for ensuring that we commit ourselves to safety on the roads and do everything on our part to ensure that we make the roads safer for all who use it,’ he said.
Other speakers included: State Minister for Tourism an Entertainment, Hon. Damion Crawford, who endorsed the initiative and thanked the entertainers for supporting the cause; Route Taxi Association of Jamaica President, Sophia Campbell; and recording artistes – Voicemail.
There was also a special presentation by accident survivor, Fallasha Fitz-Henley, who shared her experiences on the effect the mishap has had on her life.