Call for reduced speed limitFriday, May 21, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
THE National Road Safety Council (NRSC) is joining a global call to impose a 30-kilometre per hour (km/h) (20 miles per hour) speed limit in built-up (urban) areas, aimed at reducing road traffic accidents.
According to the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), low-speed streets save lives and are the heart of any community.
The benefits of low-speed urban streets was one of the highlights at the 6th UN Global Road Safety Week being held from May 17 to 23.
Speaking at yesterday's webinar hosted by the NRSC and sponsored by Jamaica National, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who chairs the council, and Vice Chair Dr Lucien Jones encouraged Jamaican road users to reduce the speed in the urban or built-up areas of the island to reduce collisions and road deaths.
According to Holness, this year's observance of the week is, in fact, part of a broader, second Decade of Action for Road Safety.
“We in Jamaica will be playing our part to help ensure the successful design and implementation of a holistic plan to make our roadway 'Streets for Life' in alignment with this year's theme,” said Holness.
He said that, to this end, his Government is giving serious consideration to the recommendation from the WHO for policymakers worldwide to adopt the Safe Systems approach – Safe Vehicles, Safe Speeds, Safe Roads and Safer Users – to reduc road traffic injuries and deaths.
“Just under a decade ago, in 2012, Jamaica registered 260 road fatalities. The figure would not dip below 300 for the remainder of the decade and, in 2019, road fatalities hit a gruesome milestone of 440. Last year, 2020, saw a marginal reduction to 424,” the prime minister explained.
“These are unacceptably high numbers, and we are already seeing an alarming trend for this year. We have also seen a troubling rise in the number of fatalities involving motorcyclists, and this was even prior to the onset of COVID-19 and the increased reliance on motorcycle deliverymen,” Holness noted.
“In recognition of this alarmingly high number of motorcyclists who have died on our roads in recent times, the National Road Safety Council, of which I am the chairman, has been mandated to work with the various stakeholder groups to plan and deliver motorcycle sensitization and safety training to emphasise the wearing of helmets for motorcycle riders and pillion riders,” he added, noting that it is a good example of the safe systems approach, as this project will be producing safe road users.
Dr Jones, in his contribution to the webinar, noted over the past 10 years about 1.3 million people have died on the roads, worldwide, which is the equivalent of one person every 24 seconds.
He said that in Jamaica, data show that approximately 3,500 people have died in the last 10 years.
“That's a huge number and therefore we are in agreement with the UN to highlight the significant importance,” he said.
Jones also committed the NRSC to signing the letter calling for speeds of up to 30 km/h in the built-up areas wherever cars, motorcycles and pedestrians come into contact with each other.
“We are encouraging this and we will sign the open letter encouraging others to sign, as recommended by the UN and the WHO,” he said.
Current limits in these areas are set at 50 km/h.
Local traffic expert and head of the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), Kenute Hare told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine that the authority will be staging a number of social media events, starting this week, to provide quality information for road users.
“So far this month it has not been very good for us, and we have to deal with the excessive speeding which continues to raise its ugly head, and the wanton indiscipline and get back to the basics,” he said.
The UN is calling on policymakers to act for low-speed streets worldwide, limiting speeds to 30 kph where people walk, live and play and join the #Love30 campaign to call for 30 kph speed limits to be the norm for cities, towns and villages, worldwide.
In European countries 30 km/h zones have been used widely. On September 1, 1992 the city of Graz, Austria, became the first European city to implement a city-wide 30 km/h limit on all roads, except its largest.
Significant 30 km/h zones are ubiquitous across the Netherlands. In Switzerland, 30 km/h zones have been allowed by law since 1989 and were first established in Zürich in 1991.
A network of 67 European NGOs organised a European Citizen's Initiative (ECI) '30km/h – making streets liveable' and collected signatures of support for a 30 km/h speed limit as the normal limit for the European Union. 50 km/h speed limits have become exceptions. Local authorities shall be able to decide on these exceptions and set other speed limits on their street network
In the US, 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limits exist along linear routes but are slow to catch on for area-wide implementation. New York City is leading the way with neighbourhood-scale 20 mph zones and is currently re-engineering 60 miles (100 km) of streets per year for conversion to 20 mph zones.
Florida has school zones which usually have 10 mph (16 km/h) to 20 mph (32 km/h) limits. Most use signing and flashing yellow lights during school times, but there is debate surrounding the efficacy of these measures.
Dr Etienne Krug, director of the WHO's Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, reminded participants that if hit by a car, a person has a reasonable chance of survival at 30 km/h – but not at higher speeds. He went on to observe that the “vaccine” for safer streets is “political will”.
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