Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
President of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) Dr Earl Jarrett has called for a fundamental shift in how local policymakers treat with the challenges of road safety, crashes and fatalities. He told Thursday's local launch of Promoting a Decade of Action for Road Safety that while local agencies have been focusing on bringing the number of road fatalities to 300 per year, this target is way off mark.
Dr Jarrett cited data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showing that Great Britain has a rate of 5.4 road fatalities per hundred thousand of its population. He noted that with some countries falling to four per hundred thousand, at just over 12 fatalities per hundred thousand Jamaica's rate was disturbingly high.
"Which means that we still have a very long way to go (in reducing traffic crashes and fatalities)," he told the audience at the Mona Visitors' Lodge, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. "There is (still) significant work to be done and that is not going to be just running a few ads; it has to be strategic," he continued.
Jarrett's comments came during a one-day visit to Jamaica by a delegation from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), led by president Jean Todt, who called for a more aggressive approach in tackling the problem. Describing road crashes and fatalities as developmental issues, he charged that the evidence shows clearly that poor people were more often the victims.
"If you look at who gets killed it's not the rich, it's poor people. It's at Portia Simpson Miller Square, Marcus Garvey Drive, it's the stretch of road along Mount Rosser. So we have to be scientific. We have to make sure we have the resources, we have to adopt modern technology in managing road crashes in Jamaica," Dr Jarrett appealed. He went on to endorse the suggestion by Mr Todt that the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) revise its target of 300 traffic fatalities anually to between 150 and 175, in keeping with the rate in developed countries.
The target figure is far below the primary target of the National Road Safety Council's (NRSC) Save 300 campaign, which was started four years ago. On July 8 this year Automotives reported that to July 2 there was a 22 per cent decline in road fatalities from last year. The figure of 300 was settled on because the lowest recent road fatalities level was 295 in 1999.
Director of the Mona Geoinformatics Institute Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee said that in keeping with a decision to take on the challenge of using information to drive decision-making it had committed to working with other agencies on informing about road safety, along with other issues of national importance.
To this end the Institute has to date, collected and processed 10 years worth of road safety data, looking at just under 75,000 road crashes. He was optimistic such information, if used in the right context, could contribute to a greater understanding and an eventual lessening of the far-reaching impact of road crashes. This includes the economic impact outside of just fatalities, which is the area on which the media tends to focus.
He explained: "Just under 75,000 crashes have been mapped - not just fatal but all. We looked at distribution, trying to identify not just from individual crashes but also patterns along these stretches of roadways and patterns in communities. This can be used to guide policy at the local and national level to help in calculating economic cost, not just the investment lost through crashes but also the value of time lost in a traffic jam."
(1) HELPING HANDS: President of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) Dr. Earl Jarrett (second right) points out something of interest to president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile Jean Todt (second left) after he was presented with a copy of the book Olympic DNA following Thursday's local launch of Promoting a Decade of Action for Road Safety at the Mona Visitors Lodge. Also sharing in the occasion are Transport Minister Dr. Omar Davies (right) and Principal of the UWI Mona Campus, Professor Gordon Shirley (left). - Photo by Christopher Serju
(2) Director of Sports at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Dalton Myers (left) had to field a number of questions from Jean Todt (right), President of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile during Thursday's visit to the campus, much to the amusement of Principal Gordon Shirley (centre). An avid sportsman, Mr Todt, whose visit to the Usain Bolt Race Track was cut short by rain, had a lot of questions about the basis for the unending stream of world-class athletes Jamaica produces.