Penalties not the only solution to road carnage, says HareSaturday, January 09, 2021
BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
SIXTEEN fewer people died in traffic crashes last year, when compared to 2019, but it was not enough to reassure head of the Road Safety Unit in the transport ministry, Kanute Hare, that the carnage on the nation's roads is abating.
“It tells me that we have a lot to do, and we have to push harder this year again,” Hare told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.In its end of year report, the Road Safety Unit said up to December 31, vulnerable road users (pedestrians, pillion, motor cyclists and pedal cyclists) made up 65 per cent of those killed in crashes last year.
But Hare says instead of leaning wholly on the threat of penalties, there is a deliberate strategy being employed by the authorities to encourage, engage and educate those who are most at risk to die from crashes.Of the 424 people who lost their lives on the roads in 2020, 138 were motorcyclists, 85 were pedestrians, 33 were pedal cyclists and 18 pillion passengers. This represents a five per cent drop in fatalities, compared to the similar period in 2019.Thirty-nine per cent of the motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes were from Westmoreland, Hanover, St James and Trelawny.
“It [also] tells us that we have to deal with the motorcycle safety matter seriously. We have to be more aggressive with them, we also have to get more buy-in from our motorcycle community,” Hare said, pointing out that the high number of crashes involving motorcycles each year goes beyond the issue of a licencing regime not yet in place for operators of these vehicles.“It's more than that. We have to look at it holistically because there is a culture that has developed and we have to make sure that we address the prevailing issue surrounding that culture. They operate these vehicles with impunity and we have to ensure that we get them to buy into operating the vehicle in the manner in which we want to operate them,” he outlined.
Hare said the unit and other stakeholders have been working with motorcyclists in Westmoreland to transform this mindset: “We have to be patient and we have to work with them, getting them to understand the proper use of the road and to wear their helmet and those things, because for the most part they were left alone [over the years]”.
The director noted in the unit's latest report, that motorcyclist deaths remain a major concern as this category of drivers continues to resist wearing helmets and disobeys the law. He said a similar thrust is being undertaken for occupants of motor vehicles and pedestrians: “We have to get our people to make a determined effort to keep themselves safe.”He stressed that road safety, and spot-check efforts will, therefore, not only take the form of enforcement, but have a significant public education component as well. “Yes, if we have to remove licence plates from motor vehicles we will have to, but that's not our major focus. Our operations are to ensure that vehicles are safe on the network,” he said. He pointed to prevalent traffic violations, including excessive speeding, improper overtaking, pedestrian error and failure to keep left as major causes of crashes and fatalities.
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