Males urged to: 'Drive for your children and wives'
KENUTE HARE, Director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport, has the unenviable task of tracking road fatalities. As such, he is bombarded with a plethora of ghastly stories of pain and suffering experienced by motorists, passengers and pedestrians who have been involved in motor vehicle accidents.
As the country observes Road Safety Month in June, Hare bemoaned the more than 150 people killed on the nation's roads since the start of the year.
With the latest figures showing 152 road deaths as at June 5, Hare told The Gleaner that his unit was projecting road fatalities to exceed the 300 mark this year. He blames the road deaths, to date, on driver behaviour, particularly excessive speeding, predominantly among males who fall in the age group 20 to 40. "They take a lot of risks; they believe they are invincible; they believe that they can get away from any situation."
The road safety expert said, in general, most accidents occur as a result of the reckless behaviour of motorists, motor cyclists and pedestrians.
He said for the first time in more than 25 years the number of motor cyclists killed has surpassed that of pedestrians. Earlier this week, the tally was 46 motor cyclists killed compared with 35 pedestrians who lost their lives. In addition, 12 male pedalcyclists have died in road accidents.
He asserted that the more than 150 persons killed in road accidents this year should be multiplied by 10 to have a complete appreciation of the full impact of the loss of lives on dependent families.
He stressed that males under 40 years old should be more careful on the road network, adding that "this thing about invincibility is a "no, no".
Hare said: "When somebody is injured in a crash and cannot work again, he cannot contribute to his family; he is unable to take care of his own financial needs and can no longer contribute to the country's Gross Domestic Product."
"Mi a beg the Jamaican people just to unite around this cause; 150 odd dead, more than 100 are males - me a beg di man dem specifically, to cool it. Let us drive for our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, our children and our wives, our friends - let us drive for Jamaica land we love," he urged male drivers.
Turning to a perennial problem area, Hare highlighted the operation of robot taxis and their propensity for cutting in and out of traffic, disobeying road signs and posing a serious danger to other motorists.
"If those passengers in robot taxis on Molynes Road, Red Hills Road, Constant Spring Road and Hope Road start to get up and say: 'We will tolerate no more of this slackness. We are not going to take any more robots. Whether you have red plate or you are 'roboting' - we are not going to allow anybody to drive us recklessly,'" he said.
Hare argued that many of the passengers condone the reckless behaviour of some taxi operators.
"I come up beside a taxi man overtaking and doing all kinds of things and I say 'driver you can't be driving like that' and I was told by passengers how many pieces of material make me up."
The head of the Road Safety Unit warned that in case of a collision the passengers would have to sue the driver or owner of the vehicle because there is no insurance policy for 'roboting'.
"The reason I take it this way is because I have received many calls from persons who find themselves trapped in that situation," Hare revealed.
He said he got a call a few days ago from a woman who was involved in an accident in a robot taxi. "She does not know what to do because there is no insurance company to go to because the vehicle wasn't insured," he said.
"She is now suffering from back injuries and her family has to be assisting to fund those medical expenses."
Commenting on the high number of motor cyclists losing their lives on the nation's roads, Hare pointed out that in recent times there has been an influx of motorcycles in the country. He said these motorcycles were cheaper and easier to operate, but noted that, for the most part, persons operating them are not properly trained or equipped to drive them.
Hare said the parishes showing the most motorcycle accidents are St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Hanover and St James.
Giving a word of caution to pedestrians, Hare instructed: "Cross at the designated locations. Use the traffic lights - when the thing says walk - walk; when it says don't walk - obey it."