JIS News

With the highest road accident rate per capita in the Caribbean, the Jamaican government is taking steps to reduce accident fatalities across the island by 25 per cent within the next five years.
As part of efforts to tackle the problem, the National Road Safety Policy, which was adopted by Cabinet on Monday, March 24, will be launched on April 7.
The Policy contains a comprehensive mix of approaches designed to reduce and prevent the occurrence of road accidents. These approaches are organised in five basic categories – Engineering and the Traffic Environment, Education and Information, Enforcement and Legislation, Emergency Response and, Evaluation and other comprehensive actions.
Executive Director of the National Road Safety Council, Paula Fletcher said that this initiative was not going to be a ‘one-off’ effort, adding, “we at the National Road Safety Council are going to be the watchdogs of this policy.” Mrs. Fletcher who was addressing a JIS Think Tank session on Wednesday (March 31) explained the timeliness and relevance of the National Road Safety Policy.
Work on the National Road Safety Policy commenced in 1999 and it is expected to be “the basis on which the vision of a safe traffic environment in accordance with internationally-accepted standards is transformed into reality” outlined Mrs. Fletcher. It will also provide a framework for assessing the effectiveness of programmes that are implemented.
“It is appropriate that it is being launched on World Health Day because the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization funded in 1997, a two-day workshop in collaboration with the National Road Safety Council, and coming out of that there was an initial strategic plan which formed the basis for the formulation of a national road safety policy,” Mrs. Fletcher told JIS News.
Outlining the Government’s plans for World Health Day 2004 on April 7, Mrs. Fletcher highlighted this year’s theme: ‘Road Safety is No Accident’.
A host of agencies have come together to take a collaborative approach to improve road safety, especially for pedestrians. This inter-agency thrust involves the Ministry of Transport and Works, the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture; the Office of the Prime Minister; the Social Development Commission; the National Works Agency (NWA); the Road Safety Unit (RSU); Transport Authority; the National Road Safety Council; and the Police Traffic Headquarters.
As outlined by the WHO, the objectives of this year’s celebrations are to raise awareness about the health impact, social and economic costs of road accidents; to highlight the vulnerabilities of certain groups of road users, and; to issue a call for action to increase efforts to prevent accidents.
Among the activities planned for World Health Day 2004 in Jamaica, is a Church service, on April 4 at the Webster United Church at 9:45 a.m. Additionally, the National Road Safety Policy will be launched on April 7, at a refurbished pedestrian crossing in the vicinity of Mountain View Primary and Excelsior Community College, as well as a pedestrian road safety programme will be implemented.
“In addition to what the NWA is doing, refurbishing pedestrian crossings etcetera, the National Road Safety Council and the Road Safety Unit will be doing some public education initiatives – print media, radio, TV, and I am happy to say that one of the things that the Council has been a part of is the introduction of a pedestrian hand signal,” Mrs. Fletcher told JIS News.
The pedestrian hand signal is considered a ‘novel and visible way’ for pedestrians and motorists to communicate non-verbally, and it is hoped that it is something that could not only be formally recognised, but also that Jamaicans can make it a part of the road culture.
“We call it ‘Hand in the air’, and one of the main lines in the jingle is ‘Put your hand in the air, before you do the walking. Let your hand do the talking’. So we put responsibility on the pedestrian to indicate they wish to cross and we ask the drivers to recognise that the pedestrians are trying to communicate with them,” she said.
This signal is not only to be used at pedestrian crossings, Mrs. Fletcher added, but should in fact be used at all times when trying to cross the road. “All we are asking is that for all of us Jamaicans to make road safety a way of life,” she said.

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