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Growth & Jobs | Transportation reform necessary for development – JAA

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Gheildon Wright, manager, subscription sales and services, Jamaica Automobile Association.
Earl Jarrett, chairman, Jamaica Automobile Association.

Reforms of the Jamaican transportation regulation and infrastructure, which are now being implemented are necessary for the country’s future development, said Gheildon Wright, manager for subscription sales and services at Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA).

“Improving the safety and efficiency of the transportation system saves lives, money and time,” Wright said, pointing out that “richer countries have safer and more efficient transportation systems, while the current Jamaican system is costly in lives, and national progress”.

He said, “The scope of our challenge goes well-­beyond the more than 300 lives lost on the road annually. It can also be ­measured in terms of traffic ­injuries, and massive costs which the traffic system generates.”

Wright said the JAA is directly aware of some of these problems as it provides roadside assistance to a portion of the motorists involved in the approximately 13,000 road crashes annually. He pointed to a Cost of Care and Data Mapping project report, spearheaded by the Violence Prevention Alliance, which found that, in 2014, these crashes had an estimated direct medical cost of $1.4 billion.

Earl Jarrett, chairman of the JAA, stated that “in addition to the direct medical cost, the Cost of Care report also indicated that road traffic crashes resulted in an indirect productivity cost of $1.8 billion.”

“Much of our country’s intellectual and economic resources are lost daily to deaths on our roads,” Jarrett said, adding that “this is the immeasurable human suffering and serious economic burden which is oftentimes left on a ­family, when the main breadwinner is injured or dies in a road crash.”

A 2018 World Bank study, The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable, found that reducing road traffic deaths and injuries could result in substantial long-term income gains for low- and middle-income countries.

The report revealed that, on average, a 10 per cent reduction in road traffic deaths raised the per capita real gross domestic product of countries by 3.6 per cent over a 24-year horizon. This is due to the fact that deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes removes prime-age adults from the workforce and reduces productivity due to the burden of injuries.

Wright said, “The World Bank Report shows that investing in road safety is also an investment in human capital, and Jamaica is ramping up its road-safety investment.”

He pointed to the imminent implementation of the new Road Traffic Act; improving the ticketing system; using electronic devices to capture traffic offences, and plans to improve traffic flow management.

“We need to acknowledge the efforts made in previous years to improve the computer systems in the police force; enact legislation to deal with drunk drivers; and work on improving emergency response on the roads; as well as the analysis of road crash data by Mona GeoInformatics,” Wright said. “Along with the new measures, I believe this promises a revolution on our roads.”

However, he also warned that revolutions are never painless.

“The message from our road safety authorities is to slow down, wear your seat belts, put children in car seats, observe the speed limits, and obey traffic signs and signals,” Wright said, while urging Jamaicans to “join the road safety revolution”.