351 AND COUNTING

Road fatalities soar pass the 300 mark

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 14, 2018

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FOR a sixth-consecutive year, the fatalities soar pass the dreaded 300 boundary set by the Ministry of Transport's Road Safety Unit (RSU). As of yesterday, the figure stood at 351.

Kenute Hare, director of the RSU, says the agency's target of keeping the toll under 300 is realistic but hampered by irresponsible behaviour on island's roads.

“It's tough, but while the task is arduous, we are going to meet it,” he told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

While Hare may be optimistic, his agency, using 2001 as the base year, had projected that 372 would have been killed in traffic crashes this year. Next year's projection is 325.

So given the data and evidence, is under 300 an unattainable target?

“It's arduous, but not impossible. What we (at the RSU) try to do is not make the figure reach the projected data figures,” he said. “We do this with our education campaigns. In the Corporate Area, for example, there has been an improvement in the wearing of helmets and seat belts, but it's not the same in the rural areas. Next year, we will be going door-to-door and speaking with people.”

Last year the fatality figure was 302, while in 2016 it was 358.

The RSU director said the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Area One division is cause for concern. Area One, located in western Jamaica, comprises St James, Trelawny, Westmoreland and Hanover.

“Area One accounts for 108 of 351 people killed on the roads… Savanna-la-Mar Hospital, the male ward, is flooded with motorcycle drivers,” he said. “We have a team in Orange Bay and Green Island in Hanover. We are working with the community, especially the motorcycle drivers, in encouraging them to wear their helmets and jackets.”

He said the “white roads” in western Jamaica are a bone of contention for the RSU.

“We intend to work with the National Works Agency to improve these roads. As SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) Radcliffe Lewis used to say: “Dem road deh slippery like a okra.”

Lewis is former head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Traffic Department. Under his watch, fatalities dropped to 256 in 2012. This was the first time since 1999 that fewer than 300 people had died in crashes.

In an exclusive with Auto, Lewis said the key in keeping the toll under 300 lies in the Area One division.

“Special attention was given to Falmouth and St James due to frequent crashes... Also, rural traffic officers should not do other duties. In my time, dem neva used to do station guard duties, cell guard duties and other operational duties… all hands are needed on deck,” he said.

After 40 years in the force, Lewis retired in 2013. He is currently the franchise and security manager at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company.

Hare said he's not satisfied with the police prescence in Area One but hopes it improves.

And his Christmas wish?

“I hope the population will work with us and utilise the road network in a proper manner,” he said.


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