Editorial: Enforcement matters
As Jamaica gets ready to join the world community in recognising Global Safety Week starting Monday, we feel it's appropriate to once again stress our concern about the lack of effective traffic enforcement in seeking to reduce reckless road usage among motorists and pedestrians alike.
Safety Week this year is themed Save Children's Lives in recognition of one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. So far this year, nine children have perished in motor vehicle accidents.
At the ceremony to launch the week's activities, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller viewed this as a call to action at a time when children's lives are being threatened on and off the road. This was an obvious reference to the elevated barbarity suffered by some of the nation's children this year. Sadly, these grisly killings are happening nationwide.
"This mission to save the lives of our children is a national one that must involve persons in every sector," said the prime minister.
A great deal of parliamentary time and thought go into making laws. We believe our legislators genuinely want to see fewer people die on the roads and they also want to encourage a greater sense of responsibility in road users. On the flip side, though, the police always appear to be struggling to enforce these laws. We cannot stress enough that in the end, it is enforcement that really matters.
We only have the statistics by which to judge the success of the ongoing road-safety campaigns. Last year's 331 road deaths were the highest number recorded in five years. So far this year, 124 persons have been killed on the roadways.
We believe it is time for a more robust approach to enforcing the Road Traffic Act. We make this call while acknowledging that Jamaica has joined the community of nations that has vowed to cut road deaths by half by the year 2020. That is a mere five years away.
If only we could take Deputy Commissioner Clifford Blake seriously when he declared that the police would be taking a zero-tolerance approach to road infractions. Mr Blake, as head of the Traffic Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, can only succeed in this effort by taking an urgent first step to ensure that members of his team are more visible on the roads and are prepared to act decisively.
Where are the police during peak-hour traffic when miscreants ease into filter lanes for the express purpose of slipping ahead of those already waiting in line? What are Mr Blake and his men doing about this dangerous practice? The answer is: dismayingly little.
Mr Blake reported that more than 3,000 motorcyclists have been prosecuted this year for not wearing helmets. What about bicycle riders who are rarely equipped with lights, but hurtle down streets at breakneck speeds, often wearing dark clothing? If the traffic police cannot fix these relatively simple problems, what, truly, is their mission?
Some believe it will take a cultural revolution to bring about more responsible attitudes to road usage. As the prime minister has said, there is a joint responsibility for motorists and non-motorists to work together to halt the mayhem on our roads.