Remarks given by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller to the UN Forum on Sustainable Transport and Road Safety on the occasion of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly

It is a pleasure for me to participate in this Forum on Sustainable Transport and Road Safety organized by the United Nations in the margins of the 68th Session of the General Assembly.

We are here today not only because of the importance of road safety as a public health and safety issue but also because of its impact on the lives of the family members of the victims.

Some of us in this room have lost family and friends, or know persons who have experienced such loss as a result of motor vehicle crashes. It is time that we call serious attention to eliminating this scourge.
We are mindful of the lessons from Rio. Indeed given the magnitude of the global situation concerning Road Safety, this issue must remain high on the agenda of the UN as we seek to determine the post-2015 development agenda.

Three years ago Jamaica was proud to join the Russian Federation and more than 100 other countries in sponsoring the UN General Assembly resolution which established the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.

This was an important moment for the international community; – recognition of the global scale of road death and injury, and a shared commitment to act.

Motor vehicle crashes take a tremendous toll on our societies, not only in terms of loss of national productivity and potential, but also at the level of our communities and families.

They hinder sustainable development due to the high cost burden it places on our health systems not to mention the grief, pain and suffering and damage to property.

The global statistics describe the sobering reality that we all face. Annually, approximately 1.3 million people die across the world as a result of road traffic crashes. This is more than 3,000 deaths a day.

Of particular concern is that the lower and middle income countries which are the least equipped to deal with this crisis, account for 90 per cent of road traffic injuries even while accounting for less than 50% of vehicles registered throughout the world!

Many vulnerable households are placed at greater risk of falling below the poverty line when the main breadwinner and in some cases the sole breadwinner dies in a road crash.

In Latin America and the Caribbean region, road fatalities are two times the global average. We must break this trend.

Road traffic injury prevention is a priority for my government. An inter-ministerial and multi-sectoral National Road Safety Council was established as a lead agency by our Parliament twenty years ago. It has overseen the development of road safety policy and introduced effective strategies for casualty reduction, including the use of breathalyzer testing, seat belt legislation and new enforcement techniques.

The Council set a national road safety target, to reduce deaths below 300 a year and today I am pleased to report that we achieved the goal of our ‘Below 300’ campaign in 2012.

Through hard work over twenty years, we have been able to reduce by a quarter, the number of our people being killed on our roads.  We give thanks to the hard working committed professionals of the National Road Safety Council for this reduction.

We cannot however become complacent. My government is committed to ensuring that all the necessary measures are put in place to address new risks and threats that emerge from reckless behavior.

Only yesterday we experienced four fatalities from a crash involving three vehicles. It is heart-rending to hear of the deaths of four students.

There is more work to be done! Even one road fatality is one too many.

As we consider priorities for the post-2015 development goals, tackling road traffic injuries is an important and achievable objective which should be part of the agenda.

The most effective way to reduce the appalling health burden of road traffic injuries is to integrate road safety securely within wider goals.

As we design low carbon transport systems that will improve our human environment, reduce air pollution and encourage walking and cycling, we can’t ignore road safety.

If we want to ensure that all children can get a high quality education, we must also ensure that they can travel to and from school in safety.

I welcome the UN Secretary General’s inclusion of road safety as a health priority in his report ‘A Life of Dignity for All’.

We join this call for road safety to be an integral part of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal framework and remain guided and inspired by the main Decade goal of reducing the projected level of road fatalities by 50% by 2020.

It is important that we arrive at an agreement on policies to be employed, especially in developing countries, so as to attain an acceptable road safety standard. This would include measures such as the harmonization of motor vehicle standards.

The need for greater funding towards Road Safety, as part of the post 2015 sustainable development goals, must be emphasized.

Today, Jamaica’s world renowned Olympian and World Championship gold medalist in track and field, Mrs. Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, has joined us in support of this cause.

Shelly-Ann is a hard-working “Ambassador” and spokesperson for  the National Road Safety Council of Jamaica’s campaign to reduce road fatalities. She encourages pedestrians to take greater responsibility for their own safety and actively promotes the use of safety devices, such as seatbelts and the use of helmets for motorcyclists.

Shelly-Ann has also been a part of ‘The Long Short Walk’ campaign which was launched by the Mandela family of South Africa earlier this year, in honour of Zenani Mandela who was just 13 years old when she was killed in a car crash in South Africa on the eve of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

I salute the courage and commitment of Zoleka Mandela, Zenani’s mother. You have translated a terrible personal tragedy into a global campaign for road safety and social justice for the most vulnerable road users.

We are pleased to be partners with the family of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest champions for Justice and Equality for all human beings in every aspect of life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the time is now. Let us all work together to make our roads safe for all.

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