Tufton wants more bikers ticketed for riding without helmets
MONTEGO BAY, St James – As the death toll on the nation’s road continues to climb, putting a strain on the public health system, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton wants the police to get tougher on motorcyclists who are not wearing helmets.
He cited data which showed that, as at November 28, there have been 379 deaths recorded from 342 collisions on the roads since the start of the year.
” I am told most of the tickets issued are for people driving without seat belts; very important, seat belts save lives. Rarely is a ticket given for a biker who is riding without a helmet. That needs to change,” Tufton urged.
“You may argue how much impact does it have to encourage the guy to wear the helmet. It has to be accompanied by other things; but for me that’s important in terms of the adjustments that are going to be necessary,” he added.
He was speaking at the fourth Crash Free 2023 Defensive Driving Workshop put on by Grennell’s Driving School, in partnership with Red Stripe, and held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James on Tuesday.
The health minister, who dubbed Westmoreland the “motorcycle accident capital of Jamaica”, pointed out that so far this year the parish has accounted for the lion’s share of the 119 deaths from motorcycle accidents.
“[It] is probably cultural where these bikers in this particular parish are having head-on collisions. Now when you really think about it practically, it should be rather difficult for two bikes to have head-on collisions on roads that are big enough to host cars and trucks travelling in the opposite direction. It is an interesting observation. I am told, very unofficially, that because some of them are uncertain as to where the road will lead, if they are not guided in a more direct way, when they are intoxicated in one way or the other; they follow the white line in the middle of the road,” he said.
“Now if you are using the line to guide you coming from the east and you are using the line to guide you coming from the west, chances of head-on collisions are quite real; and it happens,” he added.
The health minister said during a visit to the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital six months ago the male ward had the most patients, many of them bikers who had been involved in traffic crashes.
“The second observation is that none of them were wearing helmets. You ask them why you don’t wear helmets they say it is uncomfortable, you can’t hear properly with it, it makes your head hot, and get a whole list of excuses as to why no helmets. Helmets are available. In fact, many of them own a helmet, the law requires it, but they are not wearing. That again is a story in and of itself, in terms of how you deal with that barrier to overcome that,” Tufton said.
Another issue, he said, was that no one was prepared to take the blame for causing a crash.
“So even though you had one guy beside the other on the same ward who were involved in the head-on collision [it] is not his fault and [it] is not the other guy’s fault. That immediately says there is an unwillingness to accept responsibility for the chaos that would have led to this particular circumstance,” the minister added.
He noted that every aspect of society needs to get involved in the development of “strategies and approaches” to address the carnage on the roads.
“There must be a recognition that it affects all of us, that it is a public health concern and that the solution has to involve also a response that involves public education, law enforcement, which is a part of the overall objective,” Tufton said.
“I use the opportunity to say to you that I think it is important to experience this occasion of defensive driving. I think there is so much more that we all need to do and I would encourage you to see yourselves at the end of it not just as a defensive driver but also an advocate for a more holistic, all-inclusive approach to how we co-exist on our public thoroughfares. And it has to involve some of the cultural biases that we have become accustomed to, it has to involve some public education, it has to involve some community outreach, and of course it has to involve the law enforcement activities,” he added.