DEATHS SOAR PASS 400 MARK

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DEATHS SOAR PASS 400 MARK

ITA gets serious as fatalities pass 400

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer Senior Reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 25, 2020

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Traffic deaths for 2020 have passed 411 this year, and the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) is predicting that it will reach about 430 by next Friday.

Newly appointed director of the ITA, Kenute Hare, told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday that the figure includes 134 motorcyclists and 84 pedestrians, who are among the most vulnerable road users.

The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) had predicted 391 deaths this year, but the actual figure reached 400 with 20 days left in the year, and has been averaging about 1.16 fatalities per day.

Director of the Mona Geoinformatics Institute, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee, predicted a week ago at an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) regional virtual conference on road traffic deaths that it would definitely rise above 420, compared to his July prediction that it would end up at about 415.

Dr Lyew-Ayee's suggestion is that the Government has to be more realistic in predicting the outcome, and the best way to improve the judgement is to be more realistic in terms of how it uses the data that is available from the increasing use of modern technology.

“We cannot keep using the looking back analysis, we have to start looking at the day to day events,” he argued.

National Works Agency (NWA) Operations Manager Michael Saunderson thinks that speed is at the heart of the problem, and believes that the answer is to increase the use of technology in dealing with speeding, especially on the highways and implement the new regulations for the Road Traffic Act (RTA) that are needed for penalties for breaches.

But, Hare says that it takes more than one suggested measure to make it work, and it seems that they all agree that the basis for an improvement in the situation is to fully implement the long-delayed RTA.

Hare noted that two parishes — St Catherine and Westmoreland — account for more than 25 per cent of the road deaths this year, with each recording 57 deaths, so far.

“I am warning motorists to obey the rules,” said Hare, who has concluded that a more aggressive monitoring system is inevitable.

Hare's comment had a lot of implications because under the fully implemented RTA, the ITA will be playing the boss role and he will be in charge.

Since taking over, Hare has introduced joint spot check operations with ITA and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) personnel, and they have been manning the road checks with the focus on vehicles with coloured lights.

“We are removing the plates from vehicles which have coloured lights — red lights, blues lights all sorts of colours. We are working assiduously. We would prefer not to have to remove the plates from the vehicles but, based on what we have noticed going on now, it would seem to me that motorists want the plates to be removed,” he suggested.

“They are driving around with these multi-coloured lighting system that are totally contrary to the (provisions of the) Road Traffic Act. Headlights must be white at all times,” he noted.

He said that during last week's operations, of the 149 plates removed, 110 were due to the use of multi-coloured lights.

“Some 1,100 motor vehicles were checked islandwide. Over 391 traffic tickets were issued and we removed licence plates from 149 vehicles,” he pointed out.

To get the vehicles operationalised again, the owners have to pay a $7,500 ticket for the breach, plus $6,300 at the tax office for operationalising.

“We have been telling motorists to remove the fandangles because when those vehicles are being driven at nights they blind other motorists. A blinding light is a distracting light,” he said.

“What I want is to encourage the public to do is, wherever they see these vehicles, videotape them and send it to the ITA and Road safety Unit (of the Ministry of Transport and Mining) social media platforms,” he suggested.

“What I want the public to know is that the ITA is an entity for road safety. We are going to do a lot of night road check operations, so people need to get used to us…We will be working at nights, and we are serious about these things. We are not going to allow these eagles to take over our road network and blind people at nights,” he added.


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