ROAD safety clubs are to be established in 50 secondary schools islandwide, starting this September.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate the move was signed last Thursday during the official launch of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) Junior Clubs In Schools pilot project at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites in New Kingston.
Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites and Chairman of the JAA and General Manager of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Foundation, Earl Jarrett, were the signatories.
The initiative, a collaborative effort involving the JN Foundation, JN General Insurance Co Ltd, Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Foundation, and the Ministry of Education, seeks to promote good road safety practices within schools.
The clubs will also empower Jamaica's youth to become better road users and expose the membership to the practical and technical aspects of road safety through a combination of mentorship from professionals, presentations from agencies, and internal exploration.
Initially, the programme will be implemented in secondary schools, which are within proximity to crash hotspots.
Minister Thwaites welcomed the programme. He said that as road users, children are at risk, and by participating in the clubs, "they should be given every opportunity to develop that safety capacity, which will decrease their vulnerability".
He pointed out that this is even more important, given that large numbers of children attend schools that are considerable distances away from their homes and many of them travel up to 50 miles per day to and from school.
The minister expressed the hope that the issue of school transportation would also be addressed under the initiative.
Project manager at the JNBS Foundation, Roger Graham, said the road safety clubs "will attempt to support and advance road safety education in the schools and will seek to reduce the number of youth fatalities especially resulting from poor road safety practices".
He said the undertaking is crucial given that last year there were 18 male and seven female fatalities in the age group five to 19 years. He said projections are that child fatalities will increase by 17 per cent this year.
Graham said that through the youth-led road safety clubs, the aim is to advocate for the resources necessary to improve road safety and generate new ways and ideas to address the issues.
He said the programme will also increase awareness of career opportunities related to road safety, such as road engineering and construction.
"We are also going to seek to enhance the educational process by showing students how the lessons that they learn in class, the physics, the biology, are related to road safety... (by demonstrating) a more practical application of knowledge. We also want to include the youth as advocates for road safety and ensure that their voices are heard in relation to road safety and let them know that they possibly have the solutions to some of our road safety issues," he stated.
As part of the programme, a national symposium will be held to showcase the innovation of clubs in addressing road safety in their community.