Misleading on speeding? - Study finds lane violation the main cause of traffic deaths last year but Road Safety Unit not convinced
The oft-repeated warning to Jamaican motorists, in an effort to reduce the carnage on the roads, is "Speed kills", but a study of the fatal accidents across the island last year found that lane violation and not speeding was the main cause of road deaths.
The study, conducted by the Mona Geoinformatics Institute, examined the 280 fatal crashes recorded across the island last year, with lane violation being the cause in 65 of the accidents.
"This thing is more than just a speeding-alone issue. What is defined as speeding is where the police report explicitly says "speeding", "excessive speed", "proceeding with undue care", those kinds of words. It's not to say that loss of control and lane violation may not also be the cause of speeding, but that is not explicitly stated.
"In other words, people can speed, but you're staying within your lane, you're not overtaking, and you are still in control of the vehicle. So to simply say speeding is misleading. Reckless driving includes speeding, but it's not just speeding. So to boil it down to something as simple as speeding is glossing over a much bigger problem," said head of the institute Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr.
He noted that pedestrians were the second main cause of fatal crashes, with speeding down at number three on the list.
"Pedestrians being a significant cause and a significant outcome of this problem, they need to also take it upon themselves to behave themselves as well, not just drivers," said Lyew-Ayee Jr.
He argued that the statistics should be used in order to assist in reducing fatal crashes on the nation's roads, and this should be extended beyond just one-sided public-education campaigns.
"When you begin to appreciate the fact that this is a complex problem and applying complex solutions, we now go beyond slogans and public-education campaigns and we begin to use this information to align our roads properly, to enforce the rules properly, to build the economic incentives and punishments to dissuade certain types of behaviour.
"Public education will influence behaviour. Sure, some people will ignore it or people would pay attention to it, but that only solves one part of the problem," added Lyew-Ayee Jr.
But the entity that leads much of the campaign to reduce fatal crashes on the roads, the Road Safety Unit, remains convinced that a campaign to reduce speeding is absolutely necessary.
Director of the unit, Kenute Hare, says that the majority of our road crashes are related to bad driving practices, including lane violation, but speeding is the major factor for the deaths.
"Whenever there is a collision, the amount of energy dissipated determines the chances of persons surviving," Hare told The Sunday Gleaner.
"A traffic accident has many components such as persons speeding and losing control of the vehicle, so they end up in the wrong lane. The faster you are going, the harder it is to control the vehicle, and the human body cannot manage speeds of above 30 kilometres per hour," argued Hare.
He added that many motorists are not aware that the prescribed speed limit on roads is for normal conditions and that if the road is wet, they need to adjust their speed to account for the condition of the road surface.
That view is supported by the findings of the study by the Mona Geoinformatics Institute.
"You can make a road safe, you can design the roads to be safe, you can build stuff in a car like seat belts, etc, but it's the human side that makes all the difference," said Lyew-Ayee Jr.
"If fatal crashes are happening on straight roads that don't have risks nearby, and are flat, the issue now is driver behaviour, not the environment or the road itself," he added.