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Deborah Fletcher: Road fatalities cost big bucks

Published:Tuesday | May 3, 2016 | 5:00 AM

Road fatalities are most likely to occur in low- and middle-income countries. The 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) global status report tells us that the total number of traffic deaths has plateaued at 1.2 million per year, especially among persons in the 15-29 age cohort.

A closer look at the Jamaican statistics for the year 2015 suggests that males accounted for the greater proportion of persons suffering from road fatalities. Like the global statistics, the local statistics for the year 2015 indicate that persons in the 15-29 age group account for approximately 34 per cent of road fatalities. Added to that, road fatalities are seen as the ninth-leading cause of death among all age categories.

Up to April 18, 124 persons had lost their lives on our roads. Among those killed, at least 20 are pedestrians, although this number is 12 fewer than the figures quoted for the corresponding period during 2015. They remain a cause for concern. Another striking revelation is that approximately 50 million persons globally sustain non-fatal injuries yearly.

Though there may not be enough statistical evidence to support the claim below, it can be purported that two of the leading causes of death include speeding and improper or little use of the pedestrian crossing.

It is believed that crashes which occur as a result of high speeds generally result in greater fatalities as opposed to crashes occurring at lower speed levels. The 2013 WHO pedestrian safety manual says that a car travelling at 50km/h will require 36 metres to stop, while a car travelling at a speed of 40km/h will stop in 27 metres. In other words, the greater the speed, the more distance is required to apply the brakes.

 

OTHER DANGERS

 

Against that background, motorists are encouraged to drive within the required speed limits to avoid all forms of collisions. It is also believed that speeding motorists are often unable to acknowledge persons in pursuit of crossing our roadways, thus increasing the likelihood of fatalities occurring.

Pedestrians are also guilty of using the thoroughfares poorly. To bring out this point, I will take two of our major routes, Mountain View Avenue and Marescaux Road leading on to Heroes circle. On Mountain View Avenue, in the vicinity of Excelsior primary and high schools, there is a pedestrian crossing, as well as two traffic wardens who do an excellent job at assisting children to cross the street. However, there are still a number of children who refuse to utilise the pedestrian crossing.

On Marescaux Road, there is an overpass that can be used by persons who want to move from one side to the other. However, there are still persons who refuse to utilise the resource at hand. A little further down the road on Heroes Circle, there are traffic lights together with pedestrian crossing that can be used to move from Point A to Point B. Yet, it is underutilised.

Road fatalities do impact our nation significantly. It puts a strain on our health-care facilities, as well as on our families. This is so because many family's finances are crippled whenever a breadwinner becomes deceased. In addition, the expenses of prolonged medical care can wipe out a family's resources. Likewise, the legal and insurance systems are also burdened with increased fatalities.

It goes without saying that the National Road Safety Council has tried to encourage us to be more responsible road users; however, we need to be cognisant that we all have a role to play in reducing fatalities. We can start by putting in additional signs to accompany pedestrian crossings, especially in areas where the signs have been defaced or removed. Let us put in place additional crosswalks, especially in areas frequently traversed by residents. Also, motorists should be encouraged to wait until pedestrians have completely crossed the roadways.

Let us start the discussions now so that come this Labour Day, more communities can mobilise around (after consultations with the authorities) putting in place pedestrian crossings in the vicinities of schools and major business hubs. In putting in place pedestrian crossings, let us remember that while they can be useful, they can be hazardous when affixed at incorrect locations.

- Deborah Fletcher has a master's degree in sociology. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and deborahfletch@yahoo.com.