Editorial

An interesting suggestion to improve road safety

Friday, May 11, 2018

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Although the Road Safety Unit has reported 11 per cent and seven per cent decreases in fatal crashes and road deaths, respectively, for the year up to May 10, compared with the similar period in 2017, we are still concerned about the serious effects that bad driving practices are having on the country.

Over the past week, we have seen a number of tragic incidents, the latest being Wednesday's four-vehicle crash on the Melrose bypass, which claimed the lives of two people and left six others in hospital nursing injuries.

According to statistics released by the Road Safety Unit, between January 1 and May 10, 2018, a total of 115 people have been killed in 101 fatal crashes. Of that number, 23 were motorcyclists; nine, pedal cyclists; three, pillion riders; 23 were drivers of private motor vehicles; 19 were passengers of private motor vehicles; three, public passenger vehicle (PPV) passengers; four, commercial motor car passengers; two, PPV drivers; two, commercial motor car drivers; and 27 were pedestrians.

Yesterday, Mr Kenute Hare, the director of the Road Safety Unit, issued an appeal to Jamaicans to take road safety seriously. The majority of our road crashes, he said, are related to bad driving practices.

Mr Hare also urged road users to wear seatbelts, helmets, and other protective devices, as well as pay close attention to road signs and markings. That is sound advice that we hope will be heeded by the public, because, as we have pointed out before in this space, the toll that these road crashes have on the families of people who die and who are injured is immense. Recovery sometimes take years and, in the worst cases, the emotional trauma and physical damage is permanent. In addition, these tragedies place great strain on the country's health system.

It is worth highlighting again that a study released last year showed that, in 2014, the estimated direct medical cost for road traffic crashes was $1.4 billion, while the indirect productivity cost was $1.8 billion, bringing the total direct and indirect medical cost of road traffic crashes to $3.2 billion.

Those costs would have spiralled significantly, given the increase in road deaths since then.

It is our hope that the new Road Traffic Bill, after it is debated in the Upper House and becomes law, will help to bring an end to the bad driving habits that we see on our roads almost daily

Last week, at a lecture staged by the Road Safety Unit at The University of the West Indies, Professor Andrea Gielen of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Injury Research and Policy suggested that Jamaica adopt a safe systems approach to reduce road fatalities.

“A safe systems approach,” Professor Gielen said, “recognises that there is the shared responsibility between those who design the system and those who use the system. At the very top of this list of a safe systems approach is strong governmental leadership. Again, multiple agencies coming together — agency leaders and government leaders — taking responsibility.”

It's an interesting suggestion which, we believe, deserves examination here, as it could redound to Jamaica's benefit.

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