JIS News

With statistics from the Police Traffic Division indicating an increase in fatal traffic accidents since the start of the year, Executive Director of the National Road Safety Council, Paula Fletcher, is appealing to motorists to exercise greater care as they use the nation’s roadways.
Mrs. Fletcher, who was speaking at the launch of the National Road Safety Campaign on June 8 at Barnes PetCom Service Station in Braeton, St. Catherine, informed that, “since 2005, there has been some erosion of the gains made [in 2004]. From the beginning of this year up till yesterday, 11 more pedestrians have died when compared to the same period last year, and nine of the number are children. This points to the fact that road safety promotion through public education and other interventions has to be ongoing so that it becomes a way of life.”
She noted that last year, Road Safety Council adopted a three-pronged approach to promoting road safety, through World Health Day, Labour Day and Road Safety Month observances. The intense focus on pedestrian safety, she said, led to “an unprecedented reduction in pedestrian fatalities.”
“Among children, in the one to 15 age group category, there was a 50 per cent reduction. This translates into 15 less children dead on our roads in 2004, when compared with 2003. In the case of adults, the figure was reduced by eight. We have not seen a positive impact like this on pedestrian safety in decades,” Mrs. Fletcher observed.
The NRSC Executive Director also lauded the collaborative approach of the Jamaica Gasoline Retailers Association, Road Safety Unit, Ministry of Transport and Works, Police Traffic Division and NRSC in promoting road safety, noting that the sharing of ideas and the maximisation of resources was necessary to achieve good impact.
This year, the National Road Safety Campaign, which was launched by Minister of Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill, will target young male motorists. The campaign’s theme is: ‘With Awesome Power … Comes Greater Responsibility.’ According to Mrs. Fletcher, the main objective is to get these drivers to realise that the “awesome power of the motor vehicle or the motorbike must not be abused.””This is a hard message to get across to some males, who see vehicles as a representation of their manhood, an extension of themselves,” she observed.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Tilford Johnson, who represented Commissioner Lucius Thomas at the launch, endorsed the focus on young male drivers, noting that statistics showed that this category of drivers factored heavily in motor vehicle accidents.
“Approximately 90 per cent of persons dying in road accidents are men…of the 391 fatal accidents in 2003, 316 were men. Last year the situation was similar with 360 fatalities of which 287 were male drivers. I must add that the pattern has not varied for this year,” revealed DCP Johnson.
The National Road Safety Campaign will include a yearlong advertising programme and a series of defensive driving seminars for young drivers. Coupled with this, Mrs. Fletcher also outlined a number of other initiatives, which would need to be fast-tracked, to protect all road users.
“There’s a Cabinet Road Safety Committee that is to be convened by mid-June…we need to have a functional breathalyser programme. The Island Traffic Authority will be reorganised and with this reorganisation, we are praying for emphasis on the reduction of fraud in the issuing of licences. We are also hoping for an enhanced programme for the training and certification of drivers,” she said.
Mrs. Fletcher also indicated, that the NRSC would continue to lobby for improvement to the traffic ticketing system, so as to minimise the incidence of fraud and to modernize the fitness certification system for motor vehicles.
Turning to Road Traffic Act, she said the amendments were to be implemented soon and further changes were expected in the areas of cell phone use, car tinting, tyre specifications and other provisions by year-end.

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