Some people may not survive this Emancipation/ Independence holiday season because they may be among the road fatalities that tend to surge during such national celebrations. That's the warning from the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) as it urges the police to be extremely vigilant over the next few days.
And this warning comes on the heels of the speed-induced fiery accident on Trafalgar Road which claimed the lives of two promising men in their prime. This tragic event has helped to refocus the nation's attention on road safety.
Jamaica's mobile, fun-loving, boozy crowd likes to party hearty, and stripped of timetables, school uniforms and homework schedules, many teenagers and other young drivers are set to become part of the revelry this weekend. Long road trips are contemplated, with various parties being staged in Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
Parents need to explain to their children that by staying sober and alert while making merry, they increase their chances of surviving an accident by an incredible margin.
The NRSC is behind a nationwide campaign to keep road deaths under 300 this year. In this effort, a public education campaign and law-enforcement initiatives must go hand in hand. But the council and the police cannot do it all by themselves. Road deaths and life-altering injuries impose an enormous public burden on all its citizens.
Road users can minimise their risk of becoming part of these sad statistics by exercising caution, abiding by the speed limit, and refraining from taking the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Recognising that speeding and alcohol are major contributors to road crashes, the NRSC has called on the police to come down hard on motorists who violate speed limits, and who drink and drive.
Several well-travelled thoroughfares will be under the radar this weekend. They include Spanish Town Road (between Three Miles and Six Miles) in St Andrew, Sir Florizel Glasspole Boulevard in Kingston, Mandela Highway in St Catherine, the Llandovery road in St Ann, Rose Hall Road in St James, and Bustamante Highway in Clarendon.
But even with the police out in full force, irresponsible motorists will attempt to speed and drive while tipsy or drunk. It is obvious that strict laws and harsh penalties will not by themselves produce the required adherence to speed limits and proper road usage. So what can responsible citizens do to help create a safe driving culture in Jamaica?
First, there has to be an understanding that pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists must all share the road. Everyone who uses the road has a duty to practise safe and smart habits.
That is why this newspaper frowns on the common practice of flashing motorists to warn of police speed traps ahead. That is not a disincentive for breaking the law. On the contrary, it is aiding and abetting some lawbreakers. All this serves to do is save the errant motorist from receiving a ticket and being made to pay for his irresponsible behaviour.
A responsible citizen becomes a defensive driver who is patient and always on the lookout for erratic drivers.
By all means, enjoy the holidays, but be sensible and responsible.
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