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Road deaths head to 400 mark

By Balford Henry
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 13, 2019

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IF the current trend continues, Jamaica will see more than 400 traffic fatalities by the end of the year, and the Ministry of Transport has to do more than just damage control over the next three months.

For the seventh year in a row, the country has failed to meet the national target of keeping road fatalities below the 300 mark.

According to the latest figures from the ministry's Road Safety Unit (RSU) released two days ago, 300 people have already been killed on the nation's roads since the start of the year.

Last year, 386 people died on the nation's streets, making 2018 the deadliest in the past 15 years. Between January 1 and September 10 last year, 281 people died in road crashes. Of this number, motorcyclists account for the highest demographic with about 90 road deaths, followed by pedestrians with over 70 fatalities.

These projections make it evident that only a miracle can help us to stay below the 400 plus figure, after missing the more than the decade old 300-per-year target. Exceeding 400 victims this year, means that this would be the first time we would have passed that figure since 2002, when 408 people were killed on the roads.

The Ministry of Transport and Mining said the delay in completing the regulations necessary for the operation of the long-delayed Road Traffic Act (RTA) are not likely to be ready until year end. In the meantime, other long-term measures to improve the quality of road traffic control are being proposed.

In the latest development, last month Cabinet gave approval for a framework to partner with the private sector in the implementation of a programme of advanced video enforcement technology, to improve road safety through changed driver behaviour.

A ministry paper tabled in the House of Representatives mid-August noted that among the key elements is the use of video technology to detect red light infractions, speeding, prohibited turns, and improper lane use.

The ministry paper also pointed out that providers are to be allowed access to monitor vehicle databases only to the extent required for operation of the system, and under strict confidentiality requirements.

Other key elements include: compensation to key providers to be negotiated within each agreement, aligned to the successful collection of penalties derived from the use of their system; a comprehensive programme of public education; and an oversight committee to monitor the operations, technology and other related elements of the use of electronic enforcement.

According to the permanent secretary in the ministry, Dr Alwin Hales, the Ministry recently submitted a framework to Cabinet for the electronic enforcement of the traffic laws.

He said the use of technology will significantly reduce the burden placed on members of the security forces; serve as a deterrent against traffic violations; increase efficiency in identifying violators; and enhance revenue from ticket collection.

“We can also use that technology to collect a lot of data about what is happening on our roads. It will help to deal with the problems and the shortcomings that we have with enforcement, and we look forward to implementing it as early as possible,” said Hales.

He added that the introduction of a new Island Traffic Authority under the new Road Traffic Act will serve to improve traffic management.

“The authority is going to take full charge of the management of traffic on our roads from a road safety perspective and also from the education perspective. It will also be responsible for ensuring, from the engineering perspective, that all road designs have road safety considerations embedded in them,” said Hales.

He also noted that the ministry has already started the appointment of members of the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) board, which will make the body more autonomous.


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