JIS News

Pedestrian safety will be the major focus of parish projects across the island this Labour Day (May 24).This was emphasized today (May 7) by Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry-Wilson, at a press briefing held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
With an estimated $15 million budget allocation, this year’s Labour Day will be largely concentrated on road improvement projects, aimed at making the roadways safer for pedestrians. The day will be observed under the theme: ‘Road Safety First.Avoid the Worst’.
Mrs. Henry-Wilson said the alarming statistics related to road accidents and fatalities over the past year and their consequent impact on the health sector and the economy was a cause for concern, prompting the focus on road safety for Labour Day activities.
She noted that statistics from the Road Safety Unit indicated that in 2003, Jamaica recorded 4,432 road accidents, 392 of which were fatalities, with 51 being children.
The statistics further revealed that 29 of these children were pedestrians, either crossing the road or standing on the sidewalks.
The Minister pointed out that the Jamaica Injury Surveillance System in 2003 showed that pedestrians accounted for the majority (39 per cent) of the persons who visited the accident and emergency departments of nine government hospitals and subsequently died from motor vehicle accident related injuries, 44 per cent of whom were under 18 years old.
Since the beginning of 2004, there have been 91 traffic accidents and 98 fatalities, with eight of them being children.
“Against this background, there is a need for constant sensitization and public education on road safety, with community participation as an essential ingredient,” the Minister said.
She explained that Parish Committees have been organized to mobilize parish projects and would be given funding assistance by the Ministry.
“Our activities will also include a public education component organized by the Road Safety Unit, and for this we will be introducing ‘Captain Cross’, a Road Safety Mascot, who will help to spread the message,” Mrs. Henry-Wilson said.
‘Captain Cross’, a superhero conceptualized and designed by the Labour Day Secretariat, is aptly dressed in the national colours and will be actively involved in the promotion of road safety, particularly in schools, acting as a source of amusement for children.
In an interview with JIS News, Patrick Rose, Director of Planning and Research at the National Works Agency (NWA), noted that over 80 locations have been identified in communities islandwide, where pedestrian crossings would either be placed, re-painted or brought up to standard on Labour Day, with an average of six in each parish.
Mr. Rose said much attention would be directed at the upgrading of signs around official pedestrian crossings, with particular emphasis on visibility.
The new graphics for the pedestrian crossing, which is blue with a figure walking between two black lines, will be placed directly at the pedestrian crossing for more visibility. This will replace the beacon balls (yellow balls placed at the top of the poles), which are currently used to indicate the location of a pedestrian crossing.
“In addition to those, we intend for every crossing to have the yellow and black fluorescent ‘pedestrian crossing ahead’ and the ‘children crossing’ signs, so those signs will be basically mandatory for all official pedestrian crossings,” Mr. Rose said.
With respect to community involvement, he indicated that a list of the designated locations have been supplied to the Social Development Commission (SDC) offices, to provide citizens with information with regard to the road safety undertakings in their respective parishes.
In keeping with the spirit of volunteerism surrounding the concept of Labour Day, citizens will be afforded the opportunity to be involved in the actual painting of the crossings, with the assistance of NWA representatives on site.
“We are encouraging as many community associations and civic groups as possible, to liaise with us through the parish offices, in terms of assisting us with the painting of these crossings,” he said.
Emphasizing the importance of seeking approval from the NWA prior to the painting of crossings, Mr. Rose told JIS News that the Agency would also be eliminating or relocating several illegal pedestrian crossings that were previously placed by citizens and have turned out to be major road safety hazards.
Additionally, communities can make requests for road safety signs which, upon approval, may be erected by community members on Labour Day, under the supervision of the NWA.
As such, the NWA is urging communities to register their projects with the agency and SDC’s parish offices, so as to avoid any unwanted undertakings that would have to be eliminated at a later date.
The NWA is also encouraging citizens to embark on road safety improvement projects, such as the clearing of bushes from sidewalks and road signs that often contribute to accidents on roadways.
Since April of this year, much of the NWA’s activities have been centred around pedestrian crossings, with 60 repainted prior to World Health Day, 80 for Labour Day and another 80 for June, which is Road Safety Month.

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