Concern about speeding, safe roads after two soldiers die in crash
A police sergeant from the traffic department inspects this wrecked Toyota Yaris motor car after it slammed into a concrete fence on Old Hope Road early Friday morning. Two of four Jamaica Defence Force soldiers who were in the car died in the crash, while the others were injured. (Photo: Llewellyn Wynter)

News that two Jamaica Defence Force soldiers died and two others are injured, after the motor car in which they were travelling early Friday morning slammed into a concrete wall on Old Hope Road in St Andrew, has raised concern about speeding and safe roads.

"This matter of safe roads is a major issue and so too is safe speeds. Based on the report on this crash, it would appear that the driver was speeding, causing him not to be able to negotiate the corner," Dr Lucien Jones, vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council, argued in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

"Of course, at 3:30 am, allegedly coming from a party, the question of whether the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol was an issue. This issue needs further investigation," added Dr Jones.

According to the police, about 3:30 am Friday, a Toyota Yaris motor car with the four soldiers on board was travelling on Old Hope Road, heading in the direction of Hope Road. Upon reaching 160 Old Hope Road, where Waterfalls — the banqueting facility and nightclub — is located, the driver failed to properly negotiate a left turn and crashed into a concrete wall.

The identities and other details of the soldiers were not ascertained up to press time.

Dr Jones said that in many jurisdictions, 30 per cent of drivers involved in fatal crashes have been found to be under the influence of alcohol. He shared that a study done by a doctor at St Ann's Bay Hospital revealed an alarming number of motorcyclists who were willing to admit that they drive under the influence of alcohol and marijuana.

"We know these things and therefore we need to document and do our own research in Jamaica to establish a pattern," he said.

"The matter of the new Road Traffic Act and the improved ticketing system came up at a meeting on Thursday. The most I will say is that most of these important instruments which can make a big difference in terms of behaviour change are scheduled to come on board very shortly," he added.

"People need to prepare for this. No longer will they be able to engage in dangerous practices — this out and bad thing that many bus drivers and taxi men get into — like running red lights and speeding. If they are caught they are going to incur significant fines and the possibility of your driver's licence being suspended, if you exceed the amount of demerit points that can trigger this kind of action," Dr Jones said.

He also said that the police will be equipped with new breathalysers to test more motorists when necessary.

From January 1 to November 11 this year, 401 people died on the roads in Jamaica from 348 collisions. Over the same period in 2021, 404 people died from 361 crashes.

Based on those figures, Jones said the island is heading in the same direction as last year, which was the worst year on record with 487 road fatalities.

"What we are facing is a national crisis. The reality is that road fatalities constitute the second leading cause of violent death in the country, below murders," said Dr Jones.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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