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Traffic deaths still rising

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaiacaobserver.com

Friday, August 02, 2019

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It is no secret that road traffic deaths are rising rapidly in Jamaica, leaving public agencies like the Road Safety Unit (RSU) concerned that this year could well set a record.

In January the RSU, which operates out of the Ministry of Transport and Mining, predicted that there could be as many as 330 road traffic deaths this year. But, that was certainly a very liberal guess considering that last year the final figure was 383, the most since the 391 deaths recorded back in 2003.

It was the RSU director Kenute Hare, who made the prediction, while warning motorists that there would be no ease up of pressure on them to take the precautions seriously.

Hare seemed to be onto something when he pointed out that available data showed that 58 per cent of the road deaths involved pedestrians, motorcyclists, pillion riders and pedal cyclists.

“When you have a situation like that where more than half the persons who have been killed being from this vulnerable group that is something we need to look at,” he commented.

Two months later, in March, road deaths seemed to have stabilised at 92, prompting the RSU to predict a 15 per cent decline for the year. However, despite the ongoing efforts of the RSU, by the first week of April the figure had jumped to 116, slashing his predictions to a mere six per cent decline for the year.

But even that seems too optimistic at this time, as earlier this week, the RSU admitted that road deaths have passed the 250 mark, and was again advising motorists to wear their seatbelts, helmets, and other protective devices to save live, as well as, to pay close attention to road signs and markings.

Hare, as usual, noted that the majority of the road crashes were related to bad driving practices, and encouraged all road users to take road safety seriously.

Statistics from the unit revealed that, 251 people have been killed from a total of 228 fatal crashes so far this year. Of that group, 62 were pedestrians, 13 pedal cyclists, 80 were motorcyclists, 10 pillion riders, seven public passenger vehicle (PPV) passengers, 30 were passengers of private motor vehicles, six commercial motorcar passengers, three PPV drivers, 37 were drivers of private motor vehicles and three commercial motorcar drivers.

Pedestrians and motorcyclists continue to dominate the figures, scoring 142 of the 251 deaths recorded, but even with the focus there is no sign of a decline in those numbers this year.

The RSU seems to be banking on the new Road Traffic Act empowering the Island Traffic Authority in ensuring safety on the roadways, in order to reduce injuries and deaths from crashes.

Hare has noted that under the new Act, if persons accumulate between 10 and 13 points, their driver's licence would be suspended for six months. If a motorist accumilates 14 to 19 points, the licence would be suspended for one year; and for 20 points and over points, it would be suspended for two years.

“That was something the Island Traffic Authority wasn't able to execute prior to this,” he notes.

However, the hard and cold fact is that while the new Road Traffic Act has been recognised widely as the weapon most likely to counteract bad and careless driving, the fact is that more than a year after it had been passed by Parliament, it has not been implemented.

It would appear that the time has come for the government to roll out this weapon against drivers who continue to scare passengers, pedestrian and other drivers with their carless driving on the roads.

It is real sad that there is still no indication when the regulations for the new Act will be gazetted so that they can become effective.


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