Since the start of the year we have lost over 300 persons as a result of traffic collisions. This is a horrendous loss of human capital and I would like to use this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to every Jamaican family that lost someone due to traffic collisions since the start of the year. I know your pain and grief and would like to encourage you all to join us in helping to prevent similar devastation and grief to other families.
However, while not all crashes are fatal, there are countless other reasons for persons to take a more proactive approach to road safety. The reality of the world is that we are living in very strenuous and difficult economic times, and even a minor “fender-bender” can effectively wipe away an entire month’s budget. Hence the onus is on all of us as road users to ensure that we are alert, patient and responsible whenever we use the roads.
Additionally, I am extremely concerned about the involvement of our males in fatal collisions. Approximately 84 per cent of the persons killed since the start of the year are males, numbering over 270. This does not augur well for the development of our nation, which is in transition, where human development and growth are critical pillars on which to build. Losing persons who can contribute significantly to the country’s productive sector is a step in the wrong direction. Our Health Sector has spent over $1.7 billion so far this year, to treat persons injured in traffic crashes. This could have been avoided if we had shown more discipline in the traffic environment.
In my capacity as Minister, I will work assiduously to ensure that the elements that afford safety in the traffic environment are in place. Rest assured that in the coming year you will all see the following measures instituted to further reduce traffic crashes across the island:-
1) The full implementation of the National Road Safety Policy.
2) A Sustainable Breathalyser Programme, whereby the police will test all drivers involved in traffic accidents, and aggressively monitor patrons attending and leaving places of entertainment.
3) A Modernised Traffic Ticketing System which will remove all drivers who refuse to abide by the terms and conditions of the Road Traffic Act, from the road network.
4) Deeper analysis of traffic accidents with a view of carrying out remedial engineering works and providing the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) with appropriate and reliable information to assist in their Road Safety Surveillance Plan.
5) A Modernised Road Traffic Act.
6) The incorporation and sustenance of safety in all aspects the multi-modal approach to transportation.
7) An increased and sustained drive to ensure that all passengers in taxis, both front and backseat passengers, are properly attired with seatbelts. Too many persons are refusing to wear seatbelts in the backseat. The reality is that an unrestrained passenger in the backseat is a potential missile and can cause harm to those in front in the case of an accident. We have seen recent instances of this, and it cannot be allowed to continue.
I wish to use this opportunity to beseech everyone to refuse to drink alcohol while driving and before driving. I know you will be going to various places of entertainment and the temptation will be there to drink alcohol. If you must, please have a designated driver who is not imbibing alcohol, or charter a transport company that will take you all to and from the venues.
As is customary at this time of the year, we make personal plans and resolutions to change or modify aspects of our lives, whether it is to create and cultivate new and better habits, or to discard and abolish old ones. For 2010, I challenge you to make road safety part of the new and better habits that you will cultivate. I also challenge you to make careless and reckless driving, excessive speeding, consumption of alcohol and attempting to operate a vehicle, and the non-wearing of safety devices such as seatbelts, child restraint systems and helmets, things of the past, and start anew for the New Year.
Jamaica, we have great plans and we need you on board to fully implement the strategies and objectives to ensure that Jamaica, our beloved nation, becomes a First World Country.
I applaud all those road users who continue to use the roads in a safe and courteous manner. You are examples to others and I encourage you to continue being good ‘road models’.
Let’s display love for each other on the roadways and be our brothers’ keepers. Let’s all drive defensively and always look out for pedestrians, pedal cyclists, and especially our more vulnerable road users, the elderly and children, in the traffic environment. They represent our past and our future.
From the dedicated cess from fuel sales which was introduced earlier this year, funding has been channelled into the Road Maintenance Fund, from which wide-scale road repairs and extensive patching have been ongoing across the island. Since this month alone, almost $400 million has been disbursed from the fund on various projects. Indeed, for the first in a long while, the ministry has been able to have its contractors paid up to within 45 days of the execution of their various projects, which is quite an achievement.
Jamaicans, with optimism for better days ahead, I appeal to you all to have a blessed festive season and a prosperous and safe New Year. Please travel safely and remember that Road Safety Begins With You.

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