Lucien Jones fretful over failure to reduce road deaths
A crash scene that tells the graphic story of road deaths (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) Dr Lucien Jones says the council will have to tighten up its collaboration with the health ministry to track the number of persons who are injured in crashes, as the organisation gears up to redouble its efforts in 2023 to help stem the tide of deaths and injuries on the nation's roads.

On the eve of the new year, as fatalities hit 482, just five less deaths than the end of 2021, but still missing the mark of reduced road deaths, Jones told the Jamaica Observer: "We will have to do a better job working with the MOH to track the number of people who are injured. We can't focus on deaths alone, important as they are, because injuries and the cost to the country, those issues are just are almost as important".

He pointed out that while motorcyclists continue to be a major problem among the fatalities, the numbers have also climbed for some categories of other vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and pedal cyclists: "The main reason why we have had so many deaths in our country has to do with motorcyclists.

"But they're not the only one. If you look at the data very carefully, you will find that for this year [2022] so far, 107 pedestrians have died, worse than last year [and] 141 motorcyclists compared to 166 last year, as well as 16 pedal cyclists compared to 29 last year. So the vulnerable road users and private motor car drivers and private motor car passengers make up the bulk of those who are dying on our roads."

Saturday's statistics from the Police Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB) show that the three persons who died across the parishes of St Andrew, St James, and St Catherine between December 25 and 31 – one of them a foreign national – were all pedestrians.

Dr Jones fretted that despite the best efforts of the NRSC working very closely with all its major stakeholders, including the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the agencies of various ministries – national security, justice, transport and health – along with the Mona Geoinformatics Centre, the Island Traffic Authority and the Road Safety unit, up to Saturday 480 persons perished on the nation's roads.

"It means that the number of persons who died last year – 487 – we will either come very close to, or exceed that number, because anyone who dies between now and 12 midnight or is injured and dies between 12 midnight and January 31, those numbers would be counted for 2022. This is very disappointing but even though we are disappointed and even if we save one life, the struggle continues next year," the vice-chairman said.

He said the council would have to work very closely with the police and with other agencies to ensure that the provisions under the new Road Traffic Act are fully captured in ensuring road safety.

"We will have to continue to work with the ministries of national security and justice to ensure that we have an efficient and robust ticketing system. These two things in particular can make a huge difference in respect of road crashes and deaths and injuries during the course of 2023," he stated.

He said the NRSC and cooperating agencies will continue to work with Jamaica's international partners to access funds to work more closely with the police to use the breathalyser much more aggressively, also to try to convince motorcyclists to wear their helmets which prevent deaths.

The NRSC remains concerned that the basic standards set out in the resolution adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September 2020, to achieve a target of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2030, using a "safe systems" approach, are not being met.

The World Health Organization/UN global plan for this 'Decade of Action' focuses on the importance of a holistic approach to road safety, calling for continued improvements in the design of roads and vehicles; enhancement of laws and law enforcement; and the provision of timely, life-saving emergency care for the injured.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Observer senior reporter sumnera@jamaicaobserver.com

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