THE Road Safety Unit of the Ministry of Transport and Works has called for stronger sanctions against parents and guardians who fail to properly secure their children in moving vehicles.
At least six persons have been killed in motor vehicle crashes since the start of the year, and the Unit is blaming speeding and non-use of seatbelts for their deaths.
In a news release yesterday, the RSU expressed concern about the number of persons still being thrown from vehicles during crashes, and urged the police to tighten its enforcement of seat-belt laws.
At the same time, the unit is also urging motorists to ensure that children are firmly secured in moving vehicles.
"It should be noted that five of the six persons killed were in private motor vehicles and for whatever reason, they chose not to wear their seatbelts," said the unit.
"Of the four private motor car passengers killed, two were thrown from the motor car they were travelling in. The sole private motor car driver was also thrown from the vehicle because of his failure to wear seatbelt. Some of these lives could have been saved," said the release, in appealing to motorists to take heed.
"The Unit is warning all parents, guardians and motorists to desist from having their children roaming around in their vehicles, as if they are caught, no mercy will be extended to them. Last year, 11 children died in traffic crashes, seven were pedestrians, three were unrestrained passengers in private motor vehicles while the other was an unhelmeted pedal cyclist. This cannot and will not be tolerated at all. The Unit is calling for "Operation Child Protection in the Traffic Environment" as the gains achieved in child safety must be protected. No child must die in traffic. They are our future and we are fully committed to protecting our nation's future. It is hoped that parents, guardians and motorists will heed the warning, as all 19 police divisions are fully energised to ensure that no child is transported recklessly. We appeal to operators of public passengers who are planning to overload and pack up their vehicles, it will be firmly resisted by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Island Traffic Authority and the Transport Authority," the unit noted.
The majority of traffic tickets issued last year, according to the RSU, were for the violation of seat-belt regulations. The fee for such violation is $500 and two demerit points assigned against the driver's licence. If motorists fail to ensure that children are securely strapped down in vehicles while they are moving, the sanction is $1000 and four demerit points.
But the RSU believes that these sanctions are too light.
"These fines need to be increased to send a clear message to those persons who are intent on flouting this aspect of the Road Traffic Act," the release said. "As school reopens, the Unit is appealing to the police force to ensure that our precious children are transported with dignity and those parents, guardians and motorists who are intent on transporting our children recklessly must face the full brunt of the law," it said.
The Unit is also appealing to children not to go into overloaded vehicles and not to patronise 'robots' and those drivers who are reckless.
"Only use vehicles that have red plates and ensure that the drivers have a Transport Authority identification card. We appeal to parents to encourage their children to take the appropriate public passenger vehicles, because no vehicle is issued a licence to operate as a 'robot'. There is no protection in law for roboting," the RSU said.
The RSU said that 67% of the persons killed since the start of this year died because the vehicles they were travelling in were engaged in excessive speeding manoeuvres.
"The body was never made to withstand that amount of trauma. One passenger died because the driver failed to keep his traffic lane, even though road markings were quite visible. The Unit is appealing to the driver who mowed down the male pedestrian along the Linstead bypass on Friday afternoon and fled the scene to hand over self to the police now. Anyone with information about this crash, please provide the intelligence to the police force. Families, friends, mechanics and repairers, the Unit is requesting that if you noticed any vehicle that could be considered to be involved in a collision that fits the profile of a pedestrian collision, call 119 immediately.
"The Unit is reporting the nation's first hit-and-run fatality since the start of the year and would like to warn motorists that everything intelligence will be utilised to find them. We appeal to them to desist. The two most vulnerable road users who are usually the victims of these hit-and-run crashes: Pedestrians; and pedal cyclists.
"Once again, the Unit would like to appeal to all Jamaicans to join the road safety train and resist every form of negativity in the traffic environment. We are appealing to our people to call 119 whenever they witness these negative behaviours in the traffic environment. We need the fullticipation of every Jamaican as we seek to further bring our road fatalities below 300," the RSU said.