DR Lucien Jones has long been a champion of road safety in Jamaica. In fact, both Dr Jones, the former chairman and current vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), and Mrs Paula Fletcher, executive director of the council, have consistently reminded us of the usually irreparable damage that reckless use of the roads has been inflicting on us, and have been appealing to Jamaicans to exercise caution on the streets.
Unfortunately, their appeals have been ignored by too many people, some of whom, because of that disregard, have left their families and friends to mourn their loss.
As it now stands, at least 419 people have died in 365 road crashes this year. And, as Dr Jones noted in our lead story yesterday, with the approaching Christmas season — when people tend to be more reckless — there is the real possibility that the country could experience more than last year's record 487 road fatalities.
Our report yesterday stated that Dr Jones is of the view that there are only two obvious means to stop the carnage — enforcement and intense public education.
He has a point, particularly as it relates to enforcement of the law, as evidence in other jurisdictions is that application of traffic safety legislation does have a positive impact on reducing reckless driving that puts road users at risk.
But, here in Jamaica, as we all know, consistent and equitable enforcement of the law is indeed a challenge.
We recall a period between 2007 and 2009 when the police strictly enforced the law as it relates to the wearing of helmets by motorcycle drivers. The country felt a sense of encouragement that at last some semblance of public order was coming back to our streets. Unfortunately, though, the effort fizzled and the lawlessness returned.
We are not here saying that there is a total absence of enforcement of traffic laws in Jamaica, but the fact that each day numerous breaches are committed with impunity, especially by the drivers of public passenger vehicles, is an indication that not enough is being done.
That has, no doubt, led to public cynicism regarding authority and suspicion that there is complicity among some members of the constabulary with law-breaking taxi and bus drivers.
Therefore, while we, like the NRSC and all well-thinking Jamaicans, welcome the new regulations of the Road Traffic Act, we are cognisant of the fact that the law will have little effect unless those who engage in hazardous driving patterns are held, prosecuted, and made to pay for their reckless behaviour.
Additionally, as we have stated before, there needs to be multiple layers of protection, including safe roads, that help lessen the impact and severity of crashes, as humans will always be prone to error.
Achieving that will require collaboration between policymakers, engineers, traffic planners, and health experts. It is, we accept, not an easy task, but it is necessary as too many lives are being needlessly lost each year, taking an immense toll on families, communities, health services, and the economy.
In the meantime, let us heed the cautionary words of Dr Jones and Mrs Fletcher and endeavour to observe the rules of the road as we think more about our fellow men, mindful that the Christmas holidays are drawing closer.