Earlier this year, Prince Michael of Kent presented the Award named for him from the International Federation for Road Safety to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in her capacity as Chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC). Jamaica was being honoured for our work in road safety resulting in a significant fall in the number of road fatalities, with last year’s 260 deaths being the lowest in three decades.
Dr Lucien Jones, the dynamic Vice-Chair and convenor of the Council explained that their monthly meeting is virtually a Cabinet representation, at which the bright minds of several Government agencies pool their ideas. The Jamaica Constabulary Force have to be singled out for the energy and professionalism which they have dedicated to our nation’s road safety. However, the first six months of this year have been troubling, recording a 20% increase in fatalities over the similar period last year – we are now at 145 deaths. This was disclosed by Dr Jones at the NRSC poster competition awards last Thursday.
Speaking at the Awards function, Dr Morais Guy, minister without portfolio in transport, works & housing urged us to be more engaged in responsible road usage. He announced that a new Road Traffic Act (RTA) should be passed by the House before the end of this financial year. “The new RTA will allow us to adopt international best practices to Jamaica’s traffic regulation environment,” he said. “For example, there will be a ban on the use of cell phones while driving. Of significant importance to the Ministry of Transport is that the modernization and reorganization of the Island Traffic Authority will be streamlined and fast tracked when the new RTA is passed into law.”
He continued, “My Ministry is in agreement with the recommendation of the new RTA, for the court to order driver re-testing of repeat offenders…On other matters of traffic safety, the Transport Ministry has been working to strengthen the road safety functions in the following spheres: road safety audit management; crash data system; crash investigation, analysis and reconstruction; defensive driving; and road safety engineering.”
Speeding is the lethal factor in road crashes. NRSC Executive Director Paula Fletcher recently cited studies by crash reconstruction experts which showed that falling from a three-story building is equivalent to crashing at 50 miles an hour, while falling from a 12-story building is equivalent to crashing at 100 kilometres per hour.
The cost of road crashes in both human suffering and financial loss is tremendous. At our church, we are still reeling from the tragic deaths of Maritime Institute students 18-year-old Luke Dillion and 21-year-old O’Brien Tapper. In February, young Tiffany Stewart, a student at NCU, died when the bus she was riding in, had a head-on crash.Sterling Soares, Chairman of the National Health Fund, lead sponsors of the NRSC, reflected on the heartbreak of crashes, and the strain they place on Jamaica’s health system. “Children are a gift from God,” said Mr Soares. “and indeed, we are all children of God. As one family, let us treat each other better on our roads.”
Kudos to parents and teachers who encouraged their charges to enter the NRSC poster competition, and congratulations to the talented youngsters who emerged with the top posters: Laraine Williams of Mona Heights Primary School (6-9 y-o category); Mishawn Chin-See of Wolmer’s High School For Girls (10-14 y-o) and Deon Simone Green of Brown’s Town Community College (15-19 y-o). We also have to commend the teachers at Mona Primary and Mona Prep who coached their pupils to deliver beautiful prayers and a ‘road safety rap’. That’s why we can’t use the recent JTA debacle to prejudge!