Carnage signals need to end delay of new Road Traffic ActMonday, April 26, 2021
Even given the realities in Jamaica, where there is a chronic 'don't care' attitude to law and order, Friday night's horrific motor vehicle crash which left four young people dead, including the reported 16-year-old driver, leaves us in shock.
Carelessness — not least in respect to possible child neglect — seems very evident here.
We are told that about 11:45 pm Friday, the vehicle got out of control and crashed into a utility pole in the vicinity of Industrial Terrace near downtown Kingston. Three people perished in the car, while the driver died at hospital.
We are told that the tragedy — which occurred three and three-quarter hours after the nightly curfew under the COVID-19-related orders of the Disaster Risk Management Act began — brought the death toll from traffic accidents in Jamaica so far this year to 136.
The victims were all very young — the oldest 23 years old, the youngest being the driver, at 16. It seems that none was an essential worker.
Under the Disaster Risk Management Orders, only people categorised as essential, outside of exceptional circumstances, should have been on the road at that hour.
In fact, we are being told that they were on their way home from a party — also in breach of the disaster risk management orders.
It would appear that speeding and careless driving contributed to the crash.
It's a puzzling thing — which psychologists and others with expertise relating to human behaviour can perhaps explore — that, while the tragic, gory details of traffic crashes are routinely aired in formal and social media, many motorists take no heed.
The situation reminds us of the need to speedily enforce the new Road Traffic Act which was passed by both Houses of Parliament in 2018 with a view to bringing greater order to our roads.
In January 2020, a frustrated Dr Lucien Jones, vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council, told this newspaper that the delay in enforcing the regulations stemmed from the need to also amend the Transport Authority Act.
Back then, Dr Jones said: “There are certain provisions in the Transport Authority Act, which is part and parcel of the Road Traffic Act, and unless you pass the Transport Authority Act you can't repeal the [old] Road Traffic Act, [which] has to be repealed before the new one can be implemented.”
We are appalled that 16 months later, despite promises by Government, and the clear, urgent need for legislative action, as signalled by the continuing carnage on the roads, the matter remains unresolved.
We are aware of the resource constraints afflicting all sectors of the public sector. We know that those constraints, including personnel shortages, badly affect the drafting of legislation and so forth. But we submit that this matter relating to road safety, life and death, should under no circumstances be delayed this long,
Beyond that, the fact of a 16-year-old — a minor subject to the provisions of the Child Care and Protection Act — at the wheel of the car in Friday night's terrible crash brings into question the role of adults. How did that child come to be driving on Friday night?
The police, we know, are probing. We wait.
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