Editorial

Play it safe on the roads, please

Thursday, August 03, 2017

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While we are encouraged by news that the number of road fatalities so far this year stand at 205, compared to 233 over the same period last year, we share the view expressed by Transport Minister Mike Henry that there are still far too many people dying on our roads.

The figures released by the Road Safety Unit in the transport ministry are particularly relevant at this time of year as the country observes the Emancipation and Independence holidays over two consecutive weekends.

People, as Minister Henry so correctly opined, tend to drink and party heavily, then drive impaired and sleepy, placing their lives, those of their passengers and other road users at risk.

The statistics show that people in the 19 to 34 age group account for the majority of the fatalities so far this year, meaning that we are losing too many of our young people who ideally should form the core of the country's future.

We can't emphasise enough the devastating impact that road fatalities and injuries have on families, communities, and the country's economy. Families are plunged into poverty because they lose their breadwinners, or because they must take lifelong care of relatives who are no longer able to function as they could. Promising students have been left bedridden for life.

We cannot forget the heart-rending testimony of one young woman who said that three years after her head went through a windshield she was still picking pieces of glass out of her face, because it was too dangerous for doctors to recover all the splinters.

As we have pointed out in this space before, frequent road crashes place the health system under pressure, sometimes forcing doctors to make tough choices about sharing limited resources in cases of multiple emergencies.

We reiterate that there is one basic fact that we should all remember: Speed kills. Students of physics may understand a little better the deathly impact caused by speed.

Like Minister Henry, we urge Jamaicans who are enjoying themselves at parties, and who feel that they must imbibe, to appoint a designated driver to prevent any tragedies on the roads. At the same time, we encourage people to drink responsibly and think of the consequences of their actions.

It cannot be stated enough that road safety is not just a job for the police and the National Road Safety Council; it is the responsibility of everyone.

We welcome the increased presence of the police on the roads, particularly at this time, and encourage the high command to maintain the intensity of that programme as we continue making a serious effort to prevent more deaths and injuries. But the culture of irresponsibility and recklessness must stop.

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