Motorcyclists blamed as road fatalities spiral to 1,127 since 2013
Motorcyclists pushing up road fatalities, says NRSCThursday, April 07, 2016
THE National Road Safety Council (NRSC) has pointed to the increasing number of motorcycles on the nation’s roads as the reason for the upsurge in crashes and fatalities across the island since 2013.
NRSC Vice-Chairman Dr Lucien Jones and his team yesterday met with chairman of the council, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, at Jamaica House to discuss this concern, among other issues.
"The people who ride motorcycles are not required to have a licence. They can get a permit and drive with that permit forever; (and) part of the problem is that people are driving and they cannot drive these motorcycles," Dr Jones stated during a session with journalists following the meeting.
Director of the NRSC Earl Jarrett pointed out, too, that a large number of bikes have been imported from China, and that it has in fact been found that the motorcycles with the highest number of crashes is a brand from that country. He said that, although these are entry-level and not speed bikes, people are speeding beyond the capacity of the vehicles and overtaking inappropriately, among other reckless behaviour that lead to crashes.
The parishes of Westmoreland, St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Elizabeth account for the most motorcycle crashes with the main age groups among the dead being 20- to 40-year-olds. According to the NRSC, the majority of them were not wearing helmets.
The council’s latest statistics show that 112 per cent more motorcyclists died in 2015 than in 2014, while there was a 15 per cent drop in the number of pedestrians killed over the same period.
"It is clear that there needs to be specific affirmative action to deal with the motorcycle crashes. The police say it’s difficult to catch them because they speed away. It’s an issue that we have to continue to focus on, if we want to reduce the levels of crashes," Dr Jones insisted.
He argued that one of the ways to stem the carnage is to "very quickly" pass the new Road Traffic Act. "What the new Road Traffic Act does is mandate that you will have to have a licence, you will have to have training, and you have to be regulated," he explained.
Transport Minister Lester ‘Mike’ Henry did not give a specific timeline for the passage of the legislation, which has been before Parliament for several months now, but said that it is a priority and would be passed "as quickly as possible".
At the same time, Dr Jones pointed to a generally "very disturbing trend" in road fatalities over the past several years.
"In 1993, an average of 400 people were dying. The council was able to move the figure down to 260 in 2012, but ever since that time we have had an uptick in the number of persons who are dying on our roads… We are driving way too fast in this country, and because of that we are dying in great numbers," he said.
Dr Jones pointed out that between 2013 and Wednesday, 1,127 people had died in crashes. "Which is crazy! We cannot build a country and have this number of persons dying on our roads," he said.
On Tuesday night, two gas station pump attendants and a hotel worker perished in a two-vehicle collision on the northern coastal highway in Trelawny.
The deaths of 23-year-old Janice Brown of Wilson Run, 20-year-old Keno Edwards of Clark’s Town, and 41-year-old Dwight Sutton of Bounty Hall, all in Trelawny, brought the number of people who have perished on the nation’s roads since January to 111. This is up from 105 for the same period last year, and 96 in 2014.
"One of the things that we have noted is that just a little bit of caution could have saved the country the tragedy of losing three lives at one time," Dr Jones said.
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