IDB's road safety concerns legitimate

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

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The points raised by Mrs Therese Turner Jones at the inaugural Caribbean Road Safety Workshop last Thursday are of great importance and should be taken seriously by all law-abiding Jamaicans.

Mrs Turner Jones, the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) general manager, Caribbean Country Department, appealed to Jamaicans to take a stand against irresponsible road use.

Reckless driving, she said, should not be the norm, and Jamaicans should “call it out when they see it and not turn a blind eye”.

“People ought to use their seat belts. Children need to be in car seats and we should not be texting and driving; texting is as bad, if not worse, than drinking and driving,” Mrs Turner Jones said.

That the workshop was organised jointly by the IDB, National Road Safety Council, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization speaks to the weight these agencies place on the economic and social impact that reckless road behaviour can have on countries.

In fact, Mrs Turner Jones spoke to that fact in her presentation, noting that road crashes can result in loss of three or four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) from the economic cost associated with medical bills, loss of mobility, ability to work, and death.

We recall a World Bank study published last year telling us that countries that do not invest in road safety could miss out on anywhere between seven and 22 per cent in potential per capita GDP growth over a 24-year period.

This, the World Bank argued, “requires policymakers to prioritise proven investments in road safety”.

That data, we suggest, should be used by the authorities here in Jamaica in the continued crafting of road safety policy, for as the World Bank study so correctly noted, it is people in the working age population — between the ages of 15 and 64 — who account for the greatest share of mortality and long-term disability from road traffic crashes.

But having the policy and, indeed, the new Road Traffic Act — which is not yet effective as the regulations are still being fine-tuned — are not enough to prevent the disorder seen on our streets daily.

Police assigned to the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch need to be deployed in a more strategic way as each day we are still seeing rampant indiscipline and life-threatening behaviour, especially from taxi and minibus drivers. They obviously have no fear of, or respect for the law, even when they are ticketed for offences, because the new Road Traffic Act — as we pointed out above — is still in abeyance.

We don't know how long that will take. Neither have we heard if the synchronisation of the Traffic Ticket Management System among the responsible State agencies — which was highlighted as a problem in January this year — has been completed.

What we can state though, without reservation, is that the longer the authorities take to put all of these measures in place, is the greater the danger to road users.

As Mrs Turner Jones pointed out last week, the 269 road fatalities recorded in the island since the start of the year is “alarming”.

We agree with her that road safety ought to be given similar attention to that accorded to non-communicable diseases, “because it really is a lifestyle issue, and we as human beings can adjust our lifestyles and modify our behaviours”.


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