KINGSTON — Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Michael Henry, says there has been a gradual decline in the number of road fatalities since 2006.
Speaking at the launch of the third annual Jamaica Driver and Traffic Safety Expo at the Ministry, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston on Friday June 10, Mr. Henry said fatalities have “trended down” every year since 2006, when the figure stood at 381.
Road Safety Unit (RSU) statistics show that 350 road fatalities occurred in 2007, 343 in 2008, 347 in 2009 and 317 in 2010.
The Minister said, however, that up to May 6 this year, 131 deaths were recorded, a five per cent increase over the 125 for the same period last year. He pointed out that of the 131 fatalities, 48 were pedestrians, 19 were private motor vehicle passengers, 15 were pedal cyclists, 13 were motorcyclists and 10 were public passenger vehicle commuters. But, the Minister noted that only 104 accidents contributed to the 131 deaths, representing an 11 per cent reduction over the 117 accidents over the same period in 2010. He blamed this on the number of multiple fatalities from the accidents.
“Clearly, (an) unusually high number of multiple fatalities produced the…twisted results between fatalities and fatal crashes. When you have four people dying in crashes at fairly regular intervals, and six in one case, that is what it all does to the resultant statistics,” Mr. Henry said.
He said that the RSU continues to point to speeding, as the main factor behind most of the fatal crashes, followed by driving errors dominated by improper overtaking. There are also many cases of drivers not complying with traffic signs and signals, and pedestrians who seem to insist on taking chances with both small and large vehicles, he stated.
He also noted that many of the deaths were victims who, in no way, contributed to their demise, except “perhaps, by being at the wrong places at the wrong times”.
Consequent on the high number of road fatalities, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) has, since 2008, embarked on a national “Below 300” campaign, aimed at keeping fatalities below the 300 mark. Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding, chairs the NRSC.
Mr. Henry said the “recurring challenge” of achieving the target of keeping traffic related fatalities below 300, has proven to be “quite a test” and an “elusive goal”, annually.
He said that the battle to accomplish the “Below 300” target is not over yet, although it has not been achieved, and his Ministry would continue seek out how it can be done.
Mr. Henry said, however, that in the final analysis, the onus rested on all roads users to ensure that they take the necessary steps to safeguard their welfare, adding that with that approach to safety, he was sure that the numbers will continue to trend down.
Organised by Grennell’s Driving School, the annual Jamaica Driver and Safety Expo will be held on Saturday, June 18, at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Hope Road in Kingston, between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
In launching the Expo, Mr. Henry commended the organisers on the “important role” they have been playing, in heightening public awareness on road safety through the Expo.
Managing Director of Grennell’s Driving School, Alphonso Grennell, in noting the number of pedestrian casualties occurring, said one of the Expo’s activities will focus on the “non-driving public”.
Patron of the Expo, and General Manager of Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), Earl Jarrett, said the Expo provides an important platform to spread the message of road safety, as well as increase awareness about the programmes to reduce road deaths.
“The staging of this Expo, during National Road Safety Month, serves to remind us that each person has an individual responsibility, to ensure that he or she uses our roadways with utmost care and in the legally prescribed manner,” Mr. Jarrett said.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter