Another Road Safety Unit push to reduce crashes, deathsSunday, July 04, 2021
BY KASEY WILLIAMS
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — With Jamaica recording 234 road fatalities as of June 30, director at the Road Safety Unit (RSU) Deidre Hudson-Sinclair is pushing for a safe systems approach to reduce serious injury and death resulting from crashes.
She said the system has five categories: safe roads; safe speeds; safe vehicles; safe road users, and post-crash care.
“There is an untapped avenue for persons to see how they can support and ensure that we are doing all we can as a nation to reduce road fatalities, reduce the types of injuries that we are seeing and ensure that this nation really comes out on the other side in stemming the tide and the bloodshed, because we have gone 234 persons that have died since the start of the year,” she said.
Addressing the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association's (JGRA) virtual member engagement seminar last Wednesday, Sinclair said motorcyclists accounted for 30 per cent of the road fatalities with pedestrians accounting for 19 per cent.
She emphasised the need for a change in the approach to road safety from merely blaming road users, to aspects such as the safety of vehicles and the design of roads and other infrastructure.
“We believe in the safe systems approach and I know JGRA with our other stakeholders have been introduced [to it],” she said.
“The safe systems approach challenges us in terms of the traditional thinking where we address road trauma from the road user saying they are at fault [and] what can be changed?”
“We do recognise that people have a role, how we behave on the road does have an impact on road safety, but we also recognise that changing how we deal with road safety on a whole means working together at various stages, so the goal of the system is really to design and operate safer road networks, safer vehicles, better infrastructure, that really accommodates for human beings making errors,” Sinclair added.
“We too have a shared responsibility as technocrats to design roads better, to manage transport systems better, to encourage the use of safer vehicles and at the end of the day when we do have crashes, post-crash care. How do we help people recover in the event of an accident and ensure that they don't become a fatality?” she asked.
“Safe roads play a vital role in reducing crashes,” she said.
Sinclair believes the use of crash cushions — a 'soft' barrier that absorbs the vehicle's kinetic energy — is pivotal to minimise road fatalities. She argued for suppliers to invest in crash cushions.
“We tend to use jersey barriers which are concrete and they are useful, but we recognise there was an untapped market…and we would actually prefer that and would push some of the entities to actual invest in this, because it [crash cushion] is safer,” she said.
She said the continuous maintenance and upkeep of guardrails is also important as well as the need for engineers specialising in road safety.
“We have engineers, but not many [of them] are certified in road safety audits and inspections,” she said.
Sinclair described some vehicles on Jamaican roads as death traps.
“We have a lot of vehicles in Jamaica, but we recognise that the vehicles that we drive in can either be a death trap [or] a saviour. We have these great modern vehicles that come with these really built in safety mechanisms, we have things like crumple zones, engines that fall and drop, but what we recognise, we are a Third World country [people] are buying second hand,” she said.
“With that comes certain specific things that the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) has to be looking out for, especially if the vehicles have [been in] a crash before. Sometimes we have vehicles coming here, they have had a crash and the seatbelts have not been replaced,” she added.