Transport and political leaders call for more effort to reduce road fatalities
(From left) Member of Parliament for Manchester Central Rhoda Crawford, Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw, proprietor at Heaven’s Fesco Lyden “Trevor” Heaven and Roydel Rowe of the Power of God Ministry International Church in Mandeville pumping gas into the first of 100 taxis to receive a tank of gas on Thursday (Photo: .Kasey Williams)

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Leaders in the transport sector are appealing to motorists to adhere to road safety measures in an effort to continue the decline in road fatalities recorded so far this year.

Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw, Opposition spokesman on transport and works Mikael Phillips, Member of Parliament for Manchester Central Rhoda Crawford, as well as president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS) Egeton Newman on Thursday encouraged greater utilisation of road safety during a health, wealth and safety expo staged by TODSS.

Taxi operators benefited from free health-care services and financial advice at the event hosted at Heaven's FESCO in Mandeville.

Shaw, in pointing to the decrease in road fatalities since the start of this year, when compared to the corresponding period last year, urged taxi operators to make use of the expo.

Dentist Jada Virgo caters to a taxi operator while other cabbies await dental care at TODSS health, wealth and safety expo on Thursday at Heaven’s Fesco in Mandeville. (Photo: Kasey Williams)

Statistics from the police show that up to Thursday, there were 156 road fatalities recorded from 143 crashes compared to 182 fatalities from 161 crashes for the same period last year.

"We have to change our behaviour of the road…Don't let these events go to waste," said Shaw at what was the third of 13 expos planned by TODSS.

"This message is not just to public passenger operators, it is to everybody who is driving on the road. Everybody has to take responsibility, so that we can come down on the road fatalities, it is a very serious matter.

"It is a fact that the numbers are a bit down from last year's numbers which were a record high, but the numbers, although down in my opinion, are not down enough. I want the message to go out to every driver in Jamaica," declared Shaw.

He added: "I want you to look in the mirror before you go around the steering wheel. Look in the mirror and say 'in the pursuit of excellence in driving, I will make a difference'. Transport operators, public and private, let us commit ourselves to stop taking lives on the road. Let us commit ourselves to significantly reduce our accidents and protect one another".

In the meantime, Phillips commended TODSS for staging the expo and putting the emphasis on safe driving.

"Road safety is important, but also where I stand, taxi men and women are also very important to the survival of our country. You have always heard me say that for any country to succeed you have to have a good transport system. I am happy to know that TODSS and the taxi drivers, that the importance is shown to them," said Phillips.

He was supported by Crawford who underscored the importance of taxi operators to the country's transport system.

"You are a very important part of our society. You and everybody know that when you go on strike half of the system is locked down," said Crawford.

"We want you to start paying attention to safety on our roads, not just for you, but for those who you are transporting and their families and many of you I know are the main providers for your families," added the first-term Member of Parliament.

For his part, Newman urged taxi operators to show respect to their colleagues and other road users.

"You cannot continue to disrespect your colleagues on the road, disrespect other motorists on the road, disrespect pedestrians on the road and believe we can continue to represent you. We continue represent you when you disrespecting your neighbours around you," said Newman.

BY KASEY WILLIAMS Observer staff reporter

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