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Concern revvs up for bikers

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 10, 2017

With motorcyclists accounting for nearly one-third of the road fatalities, there has been increased concern in formal circles about how they should be regulated.

According to a report released recently by the Ministry of Transport and Mining, they have accounted for some 31 per cent of the fatalities since 2017.

A breakdown of the figures provided by the ministry's Road Safety Unit, up to then, revealed that 83 motorcyclists have died in crashes since the start of the year. These include 12 pillion riders.

In 2016, there were 96 motorcycle deaths, which represented a 14 per cent reduction compared to the 111 such deaths in 2015, which still remains a record, surpassing deaths by pedestrians which is normally the highest among road users.

Since 2015, motorcyclists have overtaken pedestrians as the leading victims of road crashes.

The ministry has been urging motorcyclists to wear their helmets and other protective devices, and pillion passengers encouraged to wear helmets, as well, while being transported on the motorcycles.

The situation could lead to new legislation being introduced by the ministry, whether as part of amendments to the proposed new Road Traffic Act or as new regulations, as it seeks to reduce the number of deaths on the roads involving motorcycles.

The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) says these measures could include a tax on the importation of motorcycles, in order to reduce the number of them on the roads, as well as mandating that motorcycles cannot be sold without safety devices such as helmets.

The importation tax would go to the National Health Fund's (NHF) health and wellness projects.

Other measures being discussed are reduction or removal of the import tax on helmets to encourage increased use.

However, while much of the focus has been on motorcycle drivers in Kingston, the fact is that most motorcyclists are from western Jamaica, where they are increasingly becoming the preferred form of transportation by commuters, as motorcycle taxis continue to grow in popularity and dominate public transportation in the parish because of their swift movement.

The NRSC says that an upsurge in motorcycle ownership, fuelled by increased disposable income of some Jamaicans as well as the expanding availability of small motorcycles has contributed to their increased availability.

However, the NRSC says that it is concerned that when the police try to educate the motorcyclists, and prosecute those who do contravene the law, community members do not cooperate with the police in taking the action, despite the fact that the police's actions are in an effort to protect them.

“This makes it very difficult to apprehend them when they break the law,” the NRSC stated.

The main issues currently related to motorcyclists include: the non-use of protective gear, including helmets; riding at nights without head lamps, reflectors or rear lights; not slowing down and taking care in responding to tricky road surfaces and potholes; creating a new lane outside or inside legal traffic; interweaving through traffic; performing stunts on the road; riding with prohibited cc ratings of 1,000 and over; practising stunts on public thoroughfares; and transporting more than one pillion rider.