BY COREY ROBINSON Sunday Observer staff reporter email@example.com
THE North Coast Highway is the most deadly stretch of road in Jamaica, accounting for five times more fatal accidents than the Mandela Highway, which is the second deadliest road, a survey by the Mona Geoinformatics Institute has revealed.
Stretching from Negril in the west to Port Antonio in the east, the newly constructed highway has, in the last decade, claimed more than 363 lives from 5,614 crashes. Mandela Highway, accounting for 1,940 accidents, recorded at least 63 deaths over the corresponding period, the study revealed.
Spanish Town Road in Kingston is the third deadliest, accounting for at least 52 deaths from 1,940 crashes; while Constant Spring and Old Hope roads in St Andrew rounded off the top five deadliest roads with 2,409 and 777 crashes. The roads recorded 15 and 12 fatal accidents respectively over the period.
Other roads which factored high on the list were Highway 2000, which saw 29 deaths from 502 crashes; Hagley Park Road with 10 deaths from 502 crashes; Marcus Garvey Drive with eight deaths from 736 crashes; and Hope Road with at least five deaths from 842 crashes within the decade.
The findings were revealed at a seminar dubbed 'Intervention to Save Lives on Our Roads', which was put on by the Jamaica National General Insurance (JNGI), formerly NEM Insurance Company, at the Knutsford Court Hotel on Thursday.
The information will aid a JNGI road safety campaign themed "Tek time drive... Arrive alive", which will see the company erecting warning signs and billboards at 'crash hot spots' across the island.
The signs, according to Chris Hind, general manager of JNGI, will serve to "warn road users that bad things will happen if they don't take care," he said.
"Despite multiple intiatives and the dedicated work of many, road crashes remain the second leading cause of violent death in Jamaica, and the risk is especially high for young drivers," continued Hind, describing the JNGI initiative as adding to the much needed public awareness efforts. This is the only way the country will be able to stem its high number of road fatalities, he said.
Thursday's seminar also saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the company and the Ministry of Transport, Works, and Housing. The MOU formalised the company's intention to brand the major crash spots.
Among the most fatal stretches are: the Northcoast Highway in the vicinity of Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay, Prospect and Discovery Bay; Mandela Highway in the vicinities of Central Village and Caymanas crossing; Spanish Town Road in the vicinities of Majesty Gardens, Newport East, Seaview Gardens, and Riverton City; Constant Spring Road in the areas of Constant Spring Gardens, and Half-Way-Tree; and Old Hope Road in the Liguanea area.
In the meantime, the study revealed that while speeding is the cause of most fatal collisions, accounting for 533 cases, contrary to popular belief, it is not the cause of crashes in general.
In fact, speeding, according to Executive Director of the Mona Geoinformatics Institute Dr Parris Lyew Ayee Jr, is the fifth leading cause of crashes in Jamaica. It follows tailgating, which accounted for 14,126 accidents; Failing to keep to the near side or proper traffic lane, which resulted in 6,884 crashes; overtaking improperly, 4,676 reports; and crossing without due care at road junctions, which accounted for 4,661 cases, he said.
Among the other causes for fatal crashes are: pedestrians carelessly walking onto the roadway, motorists failing to keep to their proper lane, overtaking improperly, and loss of vehicular control, Dr Lyew Ayee Jr, revealed.
Though not detailed in the study, Head of Traffic, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, identified motorists' usage of cellular phones while driving as a major concern on public roads.
"Cellphones are one fine and beautiful technology but some motorists do not use it appropriately. I want to use this medium to remind motorists that driving is a full-time job and should not be made into a part-time practice," he said.
"Based on this, private motor car drivers will be charged for careless driving and PPV drivers will be charged under Section 15 of the Transport Authority Act, which prohibits cellular phone use," he warned.
Lewis said also that stronger measures are afoot to deal with some public transportation operators who continue to speed and overtake carelessly on the nation's roads.