Legislators, law enforcers, and the general public, we hope, have taken keen note of this week's Sunday Observer lead story on the human and economic toll of road crashes in Jamaica over the past two and a half years.
The story as outlined is that, in a mere 30 months, we lost more than 1,700 people in road crashes, while more than $36 billion had been paid out in motor vehicle claims, and hundreds of millions in life insurance claims.
If those figures were not alarming enough, the report also highlighted data compiled by Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF) showing that 75 per cent of road fatalities and injuries in Jamaica are in "the economically productive age groups" â€” between 15 and 64 years.
That does not bode well for any country, let alone a developing nation with its sights set on creating conditions that will improve the quality of life for its citizens.
Over many years we have bemoaned in this space the carnage taking place on our roads almost daily and the damage it has caused to families, as well as to communities.
In our report on Sunday we referenced a 2017 Cost of Care study on the economic effect that violence-related injuries and road traffic crashes are having on the health-care system, which revealed that more than 10,000 people are injured annually in road traffic crashes.
The study quite rightly pointed out that the long-term care and rehabilitation of people left with significant disability from limb amputations, paralysis, and severe brain injury are significant.
To make that point, the researchers highlighted the case of a 24-year-old male motorcyclist who had not been wearing a helmet when he was hit by a motor car and taken to hospital. The cost of his treatment, which included ambulance transfer for neurosurgery, amounted to $9,272,500, the researchers revealed, and placed his loss of income at $3,600,000, assuming that he would have worked until age 65 at minimum wage of $5,600 per week.
Unfortunately, the health authorities here have not, to our knowledge, compiled data on debilitating injuries from road crashes and the cost to families and the country.
What we do have, though, is the death toll which, between January 1 and August 2 this year, stood at 284 people from 248 crashes. And while the Road Safety Unit is telling us that fatal crashes have decreased by three per cent when compared with the similar period in 2021, all well-thinking Jamaicans know full well that we cannot continue like this.
The regulations under the new Road Traffic Act, which were approved by Parliament on July 5, 2022, are about to be rolled out after too many years of vacillation by legislators. While we applaud this development, we must emphasise that having the law in place will not, by itself, act as a deterrent to reckless driving, which is at the root of most crashes.
Enforcement of the laws is one of the surest methods of reducing road traffic fatalities and injuries related to careless use of the roads. Enforcement, we maintain, must influence behaviour change.
Coupled with that should be timely reviews of the legislation as well as implementation of road safety features, as it is well established that poor infrastructure is a contributing factor to mishaps.