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Fatalities on the rise

Observer senior reporter

Friday, October 23, 2020

KENUTE Hare — director of the Road Safety Unit (RSU) — says based on current trends, fatalities are projected to reach 420 by year-end.

“It is with great trepidation that we look forward to going over 400 dead people this year,” he told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine. “Earlier in the year, we were behind (last year's figure) like up to 40 deaths. But, even though the numbers were going down, I was always worried, because the behaviour I saw on the road was not safe at all,” he continued.

This year's toll is currently at 342, one fewer than last year's figure at the same time.

Last year, road deaths totalled 440.

What is even more alarming to Hare and his team is the number of motorcycle deaths, which account for 32 per cent of the road users.

According to the director, there have been 108 deaths by motorcycles since the start of the year. He said 58 of the deaths by motorcycles occurred in that western end of Jamaica.

Of the 108, Westmoreland accounts for 26, while St Elizabeth has 15. Kingston has three deaths and St Andrew has 10.

Hare noted that the area between Trelawny and St Elizabeth, inclusive of Westmoreland, has become the “epicentre” of motorcycle collisions and deaths.

“There is a strong probability that we are going to reach that target or surpass by the end of the year. Even during this COVID period when people should be keeping themselves safe, holistically, people are slacking off with bad driving on the road network,” said Hare.

“It is a race against time for us now, because what we are seeing happening is not very positive because of the choices our people make. Quite a number of people are using their vehicles as weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

He said, however, that the RSU has begun a series of interventions to encourage motorcyclists from performing stunts on the road network and endangering their lives as well as other drivers and pedestrians.

“We hope that within the next few years these interventions will pay off, and people down there will start behaving themselves. But, we can't continue this way,” he said.

He singled out a deadly trend among the motorcyclists known as “needle caste”. It sees the bike driver lie down flat out on the motorcycle as if they are lying in bed, with their hands on the handle bar while driving the cycle.

“That is a recipe for disaster,” Hare said.

The RSU said it has begun a series of interventions involving motorcyclists in Westmoreland. They have been participating in the National Road Safety Council's (NRSC) Motorcycle Outreach and Training Programme which began on August 9 and continued August 16.

The programme, which was held at the Petersfield Vocational Training Centre in the parish, had some 48 motorcyclists participating in training sessions in the areas of road safety, motorcycle operations and motorcycle procurement, among other topics. Training was conducted by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the NRSC.

The next session will be on Sunday, October 25 at Culloden in Westmoreland.

Established in March 1994, the RSU, in the Ministry of Transport and Mining, aims to promote and advance road safety education in schools through presentations, literature and integrated programmes with the Ministry of Education as well as positively influence road user behaviour through well-designed public information campaigns.