'New laws kick-start road safety pledge'

Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw sees the passage of the new Road Traffic Act (RTA) regulations as a welcome sign that Jamaica intends to reduce the high level of road traffic deaths plaguing the country.

"Jamaica has committed to support an international target that by 2030 we must cut road deaths, globally, by 50 per cent in terms of accidents on the roads," he told the House of Representatives on Tuesday, as he wound up debate on amendments to the RTA, the Transport Authority Act and the introduction of new regulations covering the amendments to these Act.

Shaw had made the legislative changes a must for immediate passage in Parliament after giving Government's approval to a Global Plan for the Decade of Action 2021 – 2030, which was developed by World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) Regional Commissions, in cooperation with the UN Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC) to guide member states in the implementation of key actions to improve the safety of roads.

The Global Plan, which was agreed in the first week of July, emphasises the importance of ensuring sustainable financing (short and long term), as well as the engagement of relevant actors from different sectors as critical factors for achieving the 2030 target.

Audley Shaw

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 74/299, "Improving global road safety", proclaimed the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030; established a target of reducing by at least 50 per cent, the number of road traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030; and called for a high-level meeting (HLM) of the UNGA on road safety in 2022.

The minister admitted that the new road traffic developments in Jamaica are still not perfect, but argued that the Government's job is to move towards perfection.

"We made a commitment in New York to support an international target that, by 2030, we must cut road deaths, globally, by 50 per cent in terms of accidents on the roads. In Jamaica ,we have close to 500 persons dying on our roads right now in road accidents. If we cut this by 50 per cent, it will go down to 250 and that would still be too many, and it will still be too high," he warned Tuesday.

"What I want to give, as an assurance, is that the objective of all three amendments — to the RTA, to the Transport Authority Act and the introduction of the regulations — will now give the RTA 2018 a chance to move into high gear and be fully implemented over the next few months," he said.

"But, let's remind ourselves that the challenge is not just writing the Act and passing it. It's not just writing the regulations and passing them. The real challenge is the challenge of implementation, to make sure that the country and the people benefit from the implementation," Shaw stated.

"I am very pleased that we are seeing a joined up approach between government and opposition, in this very important set of amendments and the introduction of the regulations. We look forward to a speedy implementation and to amendments to improve it, as we go along, in the interest of safety on our roads, safety for our people, our drivers, our passengers, our children," he concluded.

At the same time, director of the Road Safety Unit (RSU) within the transport ministry, Deidrie Hudson Sinclair, has renewed her call for road users to exercise caution. She noted that as at July 21, 262 persons have died in road crashes.

She also urged road users to take road safety seriously, as majority of road crashes are related to bad driving practices. RSU statistics for 2021, revealed that of the 487 road fatalities recorded for that year so far — speeding, drivers failing to keep left and pedestrian error were the main causes.

She said that a breakdown of these causes revealed that: 59 motorists died as a result of excessive speeding, with no regards to conditions; while 27 died from failing to keep to the near side or to the proper traffic lane, and 16 pedestrians died by walking or standing in the road.

Statistics further revealed that males accounted for 89 per cent of the total figure.

"This is not comforting, as families are losing breadwinners, having severe consequences for the stability of homes, communities and the economy," Hudson Sinclair bemoaned.

Police checking the document of a taxi operator. (Photo: Observer file)
BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior writer

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