Target missed, again - Road fatalities reach 354

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor Auto and Entertainment

Friday, December 25, 2015

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ONCE again, Jamaica’s road deaths have soared pass the ‘below-240 mark’ set by the National Road Safety Council (NRSC). But, the agency says it remains steadfast in its quest to reduce road fatalities.

"We missed the target by a considerable amount. It may seem daunting, but our target is not out of sync with the international community. We are part of the Decade of Action aimed at reducing road traffic fatalities across the world," said Dr Lucien Jones, NRSC vice-chairman, on Thursday.

Dr Jones said for lower- and middle-income countries like Jamaica, these occurrences negatively impact development.

"A country can lose five per cent of its GDP to road traffic deaths," he said. "And persons 16-24 account for majority of traffic deaths... it’s more than HIV."

According to recent statistics from the NRSC, 354 people have died on the island roadways since January 1. Of this number, motorcycle deaths nearly doubled over the previous year with 109 fatalities. The deaths occurred primarily in the parishes of Westmoreland, St Elizabeth and Hanover.

There were 304 road fatalities in 2014, and 290 in 2013.

The vice-chairman said come next year, they’ll be concentrating their efforts on motorcycle riders and safety gear.

"We’ll be planning a special education campaign for them," he said.

Dr Jones said the new Traffic Act would also assist in the NRSC’s efforts.

"What currently happens is that a person with a learner’s licence can ride indefinitely with that. With the new Traffic Act, all persons have to get a licence and insurance. They’ll have a set time of training as well," he said.

He also mentioned that under the new Act, the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) will be given the power to suspend violators’ licences, which now can only be done by the court.

The vice-chairman also urged road users to be mindful when traversing the streets.

Established in 1993 as a non-profit organisation by public and private sector interest groups, the NRSC is mandated to develop and implement road-safety promotional activities and conduct public education programmes, as well as acting as a lobby group for the promotion of road safety.

It is chaired by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

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