Traffic chief renews call for cyclists to wear helmets

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

Thursday, January 23, 2014    

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HEAD of the Police Traffic Division, Deputy Superintendent Gary McKenzie, says the police are in serious discussions with the Road Safety Unit to make it mandatory for pedal cyclists to wear helmets.

"We believe some of those injuries that result in death could have been avoided and certainly other injuries, especially head injuries, could be minimised if cyclists protected their heads," DSP McKenzie told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

"It has been proven, especially with our motorcyclists, that those who wear their helmets survive. We continue to have problems where we have motorcyclists who are not adhering to wearing safety helmets, but that is something we have to be more vigilant with and that is something we are going all out this particular year to reduce...," he said.

According to DSP McKenzie, the police already have one solution in mind which might be particularly painful for riders.

"One of the things the police is definitely trying to do is that when a person is stopped without wearing the helmet we would like for them not to continue to ride even when we have given them the ticket. We really want a situation where once we stop them, in order for them to move away, they should have on a helmet," he said.

"We will not have helmets on hand, but what would happen is that we would keep the motorcycle until they have the necessary protective device to actually ride. Those motorcycles would be held for safekeeping until the person gets a helmet," DSP McKenzie explained.

"One of the police's responsibility is to prevent breaches of the law from continuing and so that is an area that we think we could actually make some significant inroads as it relates to reducing the number of fatalities that occur as it relates to persons riding without a helmet," he added.

In the meantime, he said the police had no intention of sneaking up on the public with the changes.

"One of the things we would want to get out to the public because the kind of strategy we are pursuing is not the Nicodemus type where we want to be like a thief in the night, we want the public to understand that these are the things that are causing us to die. When we don't wear protective devices, when we drive at excessive speeds, when we drink and drive it causes deaths on our roads," he said.

"What we have continuously focused on, in a large way, is deaths but let us recognise that serious injuries also affect the lives of people. Many persons have lost limbs, persons have become blind, persons have been maimed and it takes significant resources to take care of persons when this occurs," the traffic head pointed out.

He said the police, who have been a part of the process in terms of crafting the new Road Traffic Act, are looking forward to seeing many of the issues they have brought to the fore addressed by the provision.

"In particular, as it relates to motorcycles, that was one of the things that were brought up that we believe will be addressed when that new Act is [completed]. Certainly, we have to do all within our powers in terms of trying to prevent serious injuries and deaths when we have accidents. In doing that, although enforcement plays a major role, we really want the public to be educated and for major change to actually take place," DSP McKenzie told the Observer.





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