Motor vehicles' contribution to development
The following are excerpts of a speech delivered by Jamaica National Building Society General Manager Earl Jarrett at the Automobile Dealers' Association motor show at the National Arena on November 29.
The liberalisation of markets in Jamaica - both foreign-exchange market and the motor-vehicle trade - has given the consumer choice and has worked to improve the quality of the vehicles operating on the road in Jamaica and has enabled dealerships to have improved their service delivery.
I wish to congratulate the dealers for the change, and to signal that the only certainty that we have is that, in this free market, there will be more entrants and more competition, and as such we have to continue to lift our game in service delivery.
It is interesting to note the significant contribution that motor vehicles have made to the advancement of economies and human development. The introduction of motor vehicles and the internal combustion engine is reported to have transformed the health of many cities around the world as the car substituted for the animals which were used to transport goods and people. And while the motor car is attributed to producing toxic emissions, their presence and improvement in roadway systems have served to make cities a far more hospitable and healthy place.
Motorisation also serves to connect communities, people and to facilitate business as possibly no other means of transportation has. Today, transportation in Jamaica accounts for 11 per cent of gross domestic product.
In a world that is focused on improving quality of motor cars, to ensure that the consumers are safe in these vehicles, I believe Jamaica should adopt the UN Standards for Motor Vehicles, which include vehicle safety, environmental protection, energy efficiency and theft-resistance.
SAFETY STANDARD KEY
I encourage manufacturers who export to Jamaica to only export cars that meet the Global New Car Assessment Programme minimum crash standard of adult protection, child protection, pedestrian protection, and safety assist.
In this regard, the citizens of Jamaica and our policymakers must be extremely careful in importing crash vehicles for repair and sale here. If the vehicles are not roadworthy and economically feasible to be fixed in their home countries, I can hardly understand why it should be any different here in Jamaica when most of the components will be imported, except for labour.
And if we are pushing for safer roads, for safety on the roads, then I do not believe that such cars without significant state intervention will meet the pillar of safe cards of the five pillars for road safety.
This is particularly important as Jamaica continues to struggle to meet the National Road Safety Council's target of below 240 road fatalities in a year, and at the current rate, we can only hope to achieve the old standard of below 300.
Globally, approximately 1.2 million persons die each year from road crashes. This converts to some 3,300 persons per day, a rate of death which is higher than the Ebola virus. Yet, globally, governments and citizens are not applying the same level of focus, attention and investment in reducing the number of deaths due to road crashes.
In 2010, the United Nations and the FIA Foundation made a commitment to half the rate of growth of road deaths by 2020; and it is interesting to note that the goal was to reduce the increasing rate of road deaths. And through that objective, 15 million lives would be saved. From all indications, those targets may not be met. And this failure is due to the failure of governments around the world to take action and to focus on the five pillars which have been established and accepted globally. These are: safer road management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, and safer road users and post-crash response.
Here in Jamaica, we continue to operate at an unacceptable ratio of 11 road deaths per 100,000 persons compared to the UK with 5 and Sweden with 3. In fact, Sweden adopted a Vision Zero plan in 1997 to eliminate road deaths and injuries, and the strategy has been successful in significantly reducing deaths on their roads.
In this vein, I want to commend the National Road Safety Council, the Ministry of Transport for the significant efforts in producing a draft Road Traffic Act, and I encourage the speedy debate of the act and the passage of the legislation into law. This will allow our law enforcement to be empowered to adequately treat with persons who continue to act with impunity, and that basic elements of safe driving such as using tyres that meet international standards for road usage become the norm in Jamaica.
The effort to reduce road deaths will require more resources and it might not be inconceivable to suggest that stakeholders such as the Automobile Dealers Association, the Government and citizens should support the initiative to establish a Road Safety Institute, which will serve to consolidate the efforts of road safety research and management, and work with agencies to begin Jamaica's drive to achieve zero road deaths in the long term, and the below 240 target in the short term.