Let’s keep hammering home the safety message for motorists, pedestrians
We are heartened by news that between January 1 and earlier this month there was a 13 per cent reduction in deaths — 401 down from 461 — caused by motor vehicular crashes compared to the similar period in 2022.
We join those — including vice-chairman of the Road Safety Unit Dr Lucien Jones — who believe that strengthening of the Road Traffic Act, complete with much steeper penalties, has helped.
“The New Road Traffic Act is working. The ticketing system is working — not as efficiently as we would hope, but it is working…” says Dr Jones.
And there can be little doubt that the ban on the handling of cellphones while driving “is impactful”, as described by Assistant Commissioner Gary McKenzie of the Jamaica Constabulary’s Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch.
But, as Dr Jones, the police, Government, and all well-thinking people have been quick to point out, the death toll remains much, much too high for any degree of comfort.
And, as always, there is the fear that it could get worse because of increased reckless behaviour during the Christmas and new year period.
As has been said repeatedly, it’s not just about the personal grief, horror, and trauma that come with death and injury on the roads. There is also the huge cost amounting to many billions of dollars in health care, insurance coverage, loss of income, and so forth.
So, in the interest of safety, we welcome news that the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s e-ticketing system — designed to provide a more efficient, expeditious and accurate alternative to written traffic tickets — is being boosted.
We are told that the police recently received 3,000 e-ticketing-related handsets and printers.
The system enables a printed ticket on the spot with information about the offence, fine, court date, et al.
It also allows police to instantly check outstanding tickets; details pertaining to motor vehicle fitness, registration, insurance, etc; and even whether the driver may be on the police wanted list.
Without doubt, the use of modern technology helps and, like Dr Jones, we are looking forward to the promised introduction of surveillance cameras by the first quarter of 2024 to detect traffic breaches. That’s especially important since, as Dr Jones said, “[W]e can’t have a policeman on every corner…”
Hopefully, cameras and other related technologies will help to significantly curtail, if not completely eradicate, such disturbing, self-harming practices as people operating motorcycles (driver and pillion) without helmets, and young people foolishly manoeuvring on one wheel of a motorcycle endangering themselves and others.
Crucially, people — not least pedestrians — should take personal responsibility while using the roads. In that regard, we believe public education in formal and informal media, schools, churches, workplaces, and wherever people gather is of critical importance.
Too often, for example, we see people walking with their backs to the traffic — a hair-raising sight for motorists, especially on narrow roads without sidewalks.
Also, Dr Jones pointed to the grave danger presented by pedestrians wearing dark-coloured clothing at nights.
These and other safety tips should be hammered home constantly in every available forum. We shouldn’t assume that people know.