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The Ministry of Transport and Works this morning (Feb. 15) officially launched its pedestrian crossing project, which is designed to encourage increased use of crossings to reduce pedestrian deaths.
The project involves collaboration with the National Works Agency (NWA) and leading global payment services company, Moneygram International, which will provide $23 million to put in new pedestrian crossings and remark old ones, and to erect street signs. Some 357 pedestrian crossings have been identified across the island by the NWA.
Speaking at the event, which was held on Arthur Wint Drive opposite the Bustamante Children’s Hospital, Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill, stressed the importance of proper road use by pedestrians, especially children.
“Our children are especially still at high risk,” Minister Pickersgill told the audience, which included students from the neighbouring Gaynstead High School.
“Based on our surveys, the possibility of accidents among children under 14 years is greater than other age groups,” he added. He noted that many accidents occurred after school, and boys were twice as accident prone as girls.
Noting that pedestrian deaths constituted a high percentage of road fatalities per year, the Transport and Works Minister said that of the 64 fatal accidents recorded between January 1 and March 22, 2004, 16 or 25 per cent were pedestrians.
“A high percentage of hospital admissions are as a result of road accidents and the estimate of the cost of these accidents is high, when you take into account medical and hospital costs, loss of earnings, legal and administrative costs.in addition, the cost of repairing or replacing motor vehicles is also a drain on our economy,” Mr. Pickersgill said, adding, “when we talk about costs in terms of the hospitals, we are talking about millions”.
Over the years, the government has implemented measures to encourage better use of roads by motorists, in order to reduce fatalities and the burden on the public purse. Minister Pickergsgill noted that while pedestrian safety measures had focused primarily on education, other classes of road users such as motorists had benefited in recent years from improved personal protection, driven by legislation.
“There is now legislation requiring the use of seatbelts, child seats and the use of head gear.however, there has been no equivalent improvement for the protection of pedestrians in recent years.this we intend to change,” he stated.
It was to this end, Mr. Pickersgill said, that the major project to improve pedestrian safety island wide was being launched. “Through this programme, we are making every effort to make our roadways safer for our customers, taking into consideration, all their particular needs,” he stated. Mr. Pickersgill made particular mention of young children, who were at a disadvantage in terms of cognitive skills and judgement, while the elderly had mobility problems.
Meanwhile, Moneygram will also fund the placement of ‘Crossing’ and ‘Pedestrian Crossing Ahead’ signs at designated sites, while ‘Children Crossing’ signs will be installed at school locations. The first ‘Crossing’ sign under the project was unveiled opposite the Dental Auxiliary School on Arthur Wint Drive following the launching ceremony.
Moneygram has also agreed to sponsor the re-marking of pedestrian crossings and stop bars using thermoplastic. This material lasts longer than road marking paint, the Minister pointed out.
“We believe that repainting these crossings and installing these very visible signs will greatly enhance safety to pedestrians and in particular, our children.many studies and surveys have been carried out and indicate that improved pedestrian awareness results in a reduction in pedestrian fatalities through improved facilities and education,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
Meanwhile, Regional Manager for Moneygram International, Steve Higgins said, “this project is really aimed at school students as well as persons trying to access hospitals.our goal was to really help increase the road safety awareness for many Jamaicans. Working closely with government officials, we were able to pinpoint crossings near schools, hospitals and governmental buildings where crossing signs would help to increase safety awareness”.
He said the company was very pleased to provide this particular public service to the country and encouraged persons to use the crossings properly and to desist from defacing the road signs. Moneygram International’s major products and services include global money transfers, money orders and payment processing solutions for financial institutions and retail customers.