- Maleek Powell, who lost his sister in a horrific car crash last month, is on a mission to promote road safety.
- He is looking to start an advocacy group, which will support the Government’s continued drive to foster an orderly and disciplined traffic culture among Jamaicans.
- Mr. Powell tells JIS News that he has always been concerned about road safety, but the devastating loss of his sister when the taxi she was travelling in collided with another vehicle, gave him the push towards advocacy.
Maleek Powell, who lost his sister in a horrific car crash last month, is on a mission to promote road safety.
He is looking to start an advocacy group, which will support the Government’s continued drive to foster an orderly and disciplined traffic culture among Jamaicans.
Mr. Powell tells JIS News that he has always been concerned about road safety, but the devastating loss of his sister when the taxi she was travelling in collided with another vehicle, gave him the push towards advocacy.
The taxi driver and another passenger also perished in the crash, which occurred along the Dyke Road in Portmore on August 5.
Since the tragedy, Mr. Powell has used social media to make an impassioned appeal for more responsible use of the nation’s roadways.
His tweets brought him to the attention of the Ministry of Transport and Mining, which invited him to speak at its inaugural Symposium on Traffic Crash Investigation and Black Box Analysis held at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) in August.
Mr. Powell was glad to participate in the symposium as part of his road-safety mission.
“It’s something I’ve been pushing for… . If there is one good thing that came from the death of my sister it is that it has provided me with a platform to speak,” Mr. Powell says.
“I have pledged my time, my own resources, and I am committing to fighting for safer roads in Jamaica, because no Jamaican should ever, ever have to receive a call at seven o’clock in the morning that your sister has just died trying to get to work,” he adds.
He is appealing for persons to join him in developing this advocacy group “where citizens of Jamaica are able to speak out about these things. A lot of discussions are being had in pockets, and what I want folks to understand is that a unified voice is a powerful voice”.
Mr. Powell’s mission is one the Ministry supports in reducing road fatalities through the work of the Road Safety Unit.
The Unit is charged with promoting and fostering road safety through a sustained programme of public education and information, legislative measures, and accident research.
Statistics from the Unit indicate that as at September 23, a total of 315 persons have been killed in traffic crashes.
Motorcyclists, pedestrians, pedal cyclists and pillions account for 64 per cent of the fatalities.
The majority were males 281 (89 per cent), while 34 were females (11 per cent).
Of the total road fatalities, Area 1 (Trelawny, St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland), accounted for 29 per cent; Area 2 (St. Ann, St. Mary and Portland), accounted for 14 per cent; Area 3 (Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth), 21 per cent; Area 4 (St. Andrew Central, St. Andrew South, Kingston Eastern, Kingston Central and Kingston Western), 15 per cent; and Area 5 (St. Andrew North, St. Catherine North, St. Catherine South and St. Thomas), 21 per cent.
The Unit is projecting a three per cent increase in road fatalities for 2019 when compared with 2018.
Road-safety promotional activities and public education programmes are also being undertaken through the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), which is comprised of public- and private-sector interests.
The objective is to reduce traffic-related fatalities and lower the cost to society both in terms of human suffering and expenditure.
Among other things, the Council has lobbied for and facilitated the enactment of legislation addressing safety devices and driving while intoxicated.
The entity agitated for the reconvening of the Road Traffic Act Legislation Review Committee, leading to passage of the new Road Traffic Act last year and served as the Secretariat for the formulation of the National Road Safety Policy.
The NRSC is also an active lobbyist for the revision of the traffic ticketing system.
It has implemented a campaign to reduce road fatalities to less than 300 annually, and initiatives targeted at various groups, including male drivers, who factor heavily in road crashes.
Mr. Powell tells JIS News that the group he wants to create will encourage persons to avoid drivers who display reckless and irresponsible behaviours, flout the traffic laws, and are repeat offenders.
“We find that certain behaviours seem to have permeated our society and you see it every single day when you go out on the road, and it’s not just the taxi men. It is a behaviour that seems to have formed itself as part of our culture and is something that we encounter with truck drivers, bus drivers, public and private vehicle operators, and it’s something that can be easily fixed,” he argues.
He says that the group will also offer comfort to hundreds of Jamaicans who are mourning the loss of a loved one due to a road crash.
Mr. Powell believes that if this initiative is followed through and widely supported, tragedies such as the one that claimed the life of his sister could be avoided.
“My sister has died. There’s nothing that anybody can do or say that is going to bring her back, but if it is that we can get together as a people and support the Government’s efforts to effect change, then other persons will not have to suffer the way my family is suffering right now,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Powell has already started discussions with the Road Safety Unit and the NRSC to assist with campaigns that will push the issue of road safety.
He is also looking to join forces with an overseas group called Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
“We have to do what is best for Jamaica and I just want to get people together to lobby for a safer Jamaica; safer roads for Jamaicans, because we [cannot] continue on our current trajectory.
“We need to create a safer space, which is in line with Vision 2030 Jamaica, so now is the time to act… . It’s time for us to take action to prevent the loss of more Jamaican lives on our roads,” he says.
Persons interested in joining this new road safety advocacy group can contact Mr. Powell on the social media platforms Twitter @MaleekPowell or Instagram @becausemiblackja or the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining at 876-754-1900 or 876-754-2811 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.