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NRSC programme fails to meet targets, says coordinator - Below 240 hits major bump in the road

Published:Friday | May 6, 2016 | 11:05 PMJason Cross

The Below 240 Programme, instituted by the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) in 2013, to reduce road fatalities by yearend, has been unsuccessful. This is according to the programme coordinator at the council, Victor Anderson.

"The current targets need to be reviewed and a new timeline set," Anderson said at a Gleaner Editors' Forum, held last week.

Discussing some of the reasons for the programme's failure, Anderson underlined that the passage of the new road traffic act will give the authorities a better grasp on achieving any further targets set.

"It is a programme that has a number of activities in different areas of government. The Road Traffic Bill, as you know, went to the House of Representatives. The debate had started in the Senate when elections came, so it will have to go back to the House and back to the Senate. The Government has promised that it will happen soon and I take that to mean after the Budget Debate," Anderson said.


Focus of new act


The new traffic act should focus on key problematic aspects of general road usage that he feels will solve and minimise a lot of the issues leading to devastating road crashes. These areas include engineering, enforcement and the setting up of more emergency response centres across the island. Despite not meeting the specific goal that the programme was set out to achieve, Anderson highlighted progress in a few areas, but maintained that more needs to be done, leading up to and after the passage of the bill.

"The Below 240 Programme covers several ministries, departments and agencies and my job as coordinator is to try and get everybody working together to achieve the overall objectives. We are (hoping to achieve this) by doing all these things, the new road traffic act, the new ticketing system and electronic enforcement of the legislation," he said.

"We've done most of the work on the regulations already, but there is some cleaning up that needs to be done. Once it passes, then we'll do some more work on it and get it into its final stage. We're still working on the spirit licence act to get those amendments done. We're still working on the pre-hospital emergency response. The real obstacle there is money."


Attention to biker deaths


Currently, there are six pre-hospital emergency response centres on the island that are based within fire stations, and located mostly in the western end of the island. The western region has been receiving special attention, particularly due to the high numbers of bikers that have died in crashes in that side of the island.

"They (Government) set up six response centres, based in fire brigade stations towards the western end of the island, but we need more. I don't know the exact number that the Ministry of Health recommends, but we need a lot more. What they hope to do is to have several more centres along the northern highway corridor and then to come across the centre of the island and then cover off the south coast," Anderson said.

The main problem he pinpointed with the bikers was their lack of training in operating a motorcycle and reiterated that the new act will eradicate the current guidelines which only require bikers to acquire a learner's permit before they go off riding. Anderson hinted that a motorcycle training manual has already been prepared and will be introduced as soon as things are sorted out with the road traffic act.

He said that he is aware of a new trend being associated with imported bikes. This is not an illegal practice, but he feels that the assembling of bikes should be regulated in its entirety.

"We've just discovered that a lot of these bikes come in partially assembled and they are being assembled by the importers, but it is not in a context where there is any regulation. They are legal people; it's just that the Government does not have a legal regime to manage the assembly of motorbikes."

"What I'm talking about is the assembly part. I'm not quarrelling that they are assembling them here because that is providing jobs. We think it should be done under the umbrella of some regulations where the people are properly trained and they have proper facilities for assembly and testing the bikes," Anderson said.