BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTEGO BAY, St James - The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) has called for a programme aimed at educating pedestrians on the proper usage of the roadway in that resort city.
"It is imperative that they embark on a public education drive on the correct use of our roadways by pedestrians. We think this will certainly save some lives and result in fewer accidents," said MBCCI president Davon Crump.
Crump was speaking against the background of complaints from motorists about absent-minded pedestrians who are making a mockery of the $55million traffic management system that was introduced in the resort city of Montego Bay almost three years ago to make the streets there safer.
Speaking to the need for an ongoing public education programme to sensitise pedestrians to observe traffic lights and other safety features, Crump said, he is fearful that people might be seriously injured or even killed "because they cross at any time, any place, even when the light is on green".
Eight-four pedestrians died in the island last year, as a result of 82 fatal pedestrian crashes.
The parish of St James accounted for 10 of those pedestrians who were killed.
Crump, in an interview with the Observer West earlier this week emphasised that the education programme should begin in the schools.
"We must start in the schools to educate about the correct ways to use our roadways. Right now we have children and adults alike walking out into traffic dodging vehicles, some moving at very high speeds, with no regard or even noticing whether or not it is safe to do so," he argued.
"I have witnessed the traffic lights clearly green giving motor vehicles the right of way to move, and the pedestrians also decide that they too have the go ahead to walk out in to the oncoming traffic, the motorists are cursed at and physically abused for not allowing them (the pedestrians) to cross."
However, in addition to the education campaign Crump wants to see the implementation of a jaywalking law.
" When the pedestrians disobey the signals there should be consequences of fines and punishment to the full extent of such a law (jaywalking). We need to get them to understand that signs and signals, road regulations must be obeyed by all," he stressed.
Intersections which are particularly dangerous are
*St James St and Union Street;
*Church and St James Street and,
* The Transport Centre and Barnett Street.
Meanwhile, Kenute Hare, the Director of the Road Safety Unit of the Ministry of Transport, Works, said his unit is aware of the problem caused by the pedestrians and will be putting measures in place to have the matter addressed.
" We have to try to address this pedestrian issue because it is a serious problem. One of the things that we find is that they (pedestrians) really don't know how to use the road properly so we have to try to educate them more in that area," he explained.
He charged that the pedestrians are reckless in their behaviour; "because they cross anywhere, they believe that the motor vehicle must stop. I am the first to admit that we really need to do some more work in this area, and as soon as we get a new budget we are going to target that.
"We are going to look at how we educate for pedestrians; how we are going to engineer for pedestrians and who we can enforce for pedestrians, for they need to be held accountable for their actions," said Hare.
He said his unit ifs going to be relentless in taking the message to these pedestrians in an effort to get them to recognise that "we cannot like this."
And Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Devon Watkis, who heads Area One, said the police is willing to play its part in educating pedestrians on the proper usage of the roadway.
Noting that the traffic department has been working in the schools, the ACP said that the message must now be taken to the adults.
" We will have to take the message to the various social clubs and civic organisations because the safety of everyone is important," said ACP Watkis.
The St James Parish Council has also expressed a willingness to collaborate with other stakeholders in a bid to embark on an education programme for pedestrians.