JN project improving safety around school zones

Friday, November 30, 2018

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THE Clarendon-based Hazard Primary School, located along the busy thoroughfare between Mineral Heights and May Pen, has been transformed into a safety zone for students and other pedestrians.

The school, which has been the site of several road crashes, none of which has been fatal, has benefited from the installation of road-safety infrastructure under the Jamaica National (JN) Foundation's 'X Marks the Spot' crosswalk road-safety campaign.

The safety features include pedestrian gates and signage for bus lay-bys, and widening and paving of sidewalks.

Seventeen other schools across the island are slated to benefit from similar work under the three-year project, which also involves heightening road-safety awareness among children.

The objective is to improve crossing areas with the highest incidence of road crashes, and ensure that these zones are safe for children, who are most vulnerable on the roads, and that they have safe routes to and from school.

“I am really thankful,” Hazard Primary student Shaveka Allen told JIS News at the recent launch of the 'X Marks the Spot' campaign at the school and official unveiling of the road-safety infrastructure.

She said that with the improvements, she feels safer and better protected from unruly drivers.

“I want to say a wonderful thank you to them (JN), because we really appreciate it,” she added.

Another student, Kiano Allen, said he welcomes the focus on educating the students about safe road use, noting that often, children do not utilise the roads properly.

“I don't want any of my classmates to get hit down. It is a great start to help them to use the road and to be safe. Students are very thankful,” he told JIS News.

Principal of Hazard Primary, Orville Mitchell, echoed the sentiments of the students, noting that he is “very elated” about the work done.

He said he now feels satisfied that the students have a level of safety when crossing the streets.

Mitchell said that parents are also grateful. “It is a welcome improvement,” he added.

Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister Mike Henry for his part, endorsed the project, which he said is in keeping with the Government's mission to improve road safety.

The minister, who is also Member of Parliament for Central Clarendon, where Hazard Primary is located, implores drivers to act responsibly on the roads in order to safeguard children, who are the nation's future.

He said that the JN road-safety campaign will go a far way in ensuring the protection of children as they make their way to and from school.

“When parents are assured that their children will get to school safely, they will be more content, and the children will be happier and be able to focus on schoolwork,” he pointed out.

The JN Foundation's 'X Marks the Spot' campaign involves collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Kingdom-based FIA Foundation, and the Abertis Foundation in Spain.

It is being informed by a recently completed Child Road Safety Assessment Report commissioned by the JN Foundation, which found that child pedestrians represent the most vulnerable group of road users.

The report provided baseline data to improve the safety of children on the roads, particularly near, or on their way to school.

The research identified specific schools and zones where children are most vulnerable to road traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The areas require specific infrastructure and/or safety interventions, both at the physical and social levels.

Chairman of the JN Foundation, Parris Lyew-Ayee, outlines that among the key objectives of the campaign is to hold discussions about road safety in schools and households.

He said that under the project, the exterior of the targeted schools will be improved, making the institutions safer for children.

He noted that additional locations will be identified for interventions, including installation of crosswalks, signs, and speed-reduction surfaces, among other things.

Quality Education Specialist with UNICEF, Dr Rebecca Tortello, told JIS News that under the project, Safety Youth Ambassadors will be appointed to spread the message of road safety through a media campaign.

She noted that the Ministry of Transport and Mining will be facilitating sensitisation fora with public-transport operators, to improve compliance with road-safety rules.

Deputy representative of the FIA Foundation, Avi Silverman, in his remarks at the launch, argued that children should not be allowed to cross roadways without a safety mechanism in place.

“Every school around the world should have this (road safety) infrastructure; it is not expensive to put in, and we need to make sure that we have it in place for all of our children,” he shared.

Over the past five years, more than 120 children have died on Jamaica's roads, while many continue to suffer from life-altering injuries.

The beneficiary schools will continue to receive upgrades to their school zone road infrastructure over the three years of the campaign.

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