JIS News

Transport and Works Minister, Mike Henry, has called on the United Nations General Assembly to foster the establishment of a Global Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, to help keep down road fatalities worldwide.
The proposal was part of the Minister’s address to the 62nd Session of the General Assembly, yesterday (March 31), which focused on the global road safety crisis. A Resolution calling for the staging of a UN Global Ministerial Conference in Russia next year, which was supported by Jamaica, was adopted by the General Assembly.
Minister Henry, who represented Prime Minister Bruce Golding at the UN session, said Jamaica, as part of its drive to improve road safety locally, “is working to get out of the mindset of constructing roads without due consideration for the safe use of the facilities.”
He told the UN audience that the Global Motor Vehicle Safety Standard would establish the minimum standard for motor vehicles manufactured anywhere in the world, a move which would go very far in the thrust towards having safer roadways.
The Minister, in pointing to road traffic injuries as the number one cause of death among youngsters in the 10 to 24 year-old group, said with an average of 1,049 deaths from that source each day, this meant the loss of a young life anywhere between every one and three minutes, globally. He said that scenario has brought grief and pain to countless families and communities over the years.
Additionally, he said the cost of dealing with the healthcare requirements of the global road traffic crisis has been extremely telling, especially on the economies of middle and low income countries, which account for some 90 per cent of road traffic injuries worldwide.
Preliminary estimates indicate that Jamaica’s Accident and Emergency cost amounted to US$14 million in 2006, representing 0.48 per cent of the country’s GDP; 7.2 per cent of the budget allocated to the local hospitals; and 0.33 per cent of the national budget.
“This is an economic drain in our situation, where scarce resources would be better spent in areas of development. We need to actively seek, therefore, to spend the dollar on preventive interventions, where it is an investment rather than an expense,” the Minister said.
He said with many struggling economies worldwide, plus record high oil prices and rising food prices, the effects on the poor and needy worldwide present a major challenge for many governments. This, he said, was even more complicated, considering that those who are unable to afford automobiles are the ones most vulnerable on the roadways.
In Jamaica, for the last 20 years, pedestrians have accounted for 33 per cent of all road fatalities, with that figure being as high as 50 per cent in some countries in the wider Caribbean and Latin American region. Likewise, the larger category comprising pedestrians, pedal cyclists and motor cyclists has accounted for up to 66 per cent of the road traffic fatalities in Jamaica in the recent past.
Minister Henry called for Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean and Latin American region to be granted easier access to the International Road Safety Programme, to help in the risk management and tracking of the safety performance of their road networks.
He said as demonstrated by Jamaica in having Prime Minister Golding chairing the National Road Safety Council, to ensure top priority focus on the issue, the necessary political will has to be found on the global scale, to prevent the problem from spiralling out of control.
In its international focus on highlighting the road safety problem, Jamaica is an active participant in the Latin American and Caribbean Road Safety Forum, which has the backing of the Global Road Safety Forum, a non-governmental agency committed to advocacy and international collaboration.
The international support networks bring together the relevant government representatives from the transportation, health, law enforcement and education sectors, while mobilizing the relevant regional and international organizations with a view towards greater collaboration in the effort to contain the problem of growing road traffic injuries.

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