Portia Simpson Miller, prime minister and chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), has commended the Council, its partner agencies and members of the public for the proactive role they played in ensuring a significant reduction in road fatalities and injuries during 2012. She made the statements in a message delivered by Dr Omar Davies, transport minister, during the NRSC's Thanksgiving Service at the Webster Memorial United Church in St Andrew last Sunday.
The prime minister credits the NRSC's public-education programme and the vigilance of the Police Traffic Division for encouraging the country's improved road safety awareness and practices. These resulted in fewer than 300 road fatalities last year, in keeping with the NRSC's Save 300 Lives Campaign.
Jamaica ended the year with 258 road fatalities.
Simpson Miller said the country enjoyed a 16 per cent decrease in road deaths over 2011 and a 25 per cent decline during the four years of the Save 300 Lives Campaign. Among the NRSC partner organisations lauded by Simpson Miller in encouraging safe road usage were the ministries of health, national security, justice, education, local government, transport and works, Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA), Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) and the Insurance Association of Jamaica.
However, she cautioned Jamaicans to remain vigilant in proper road usage. "While we give thanks for this reduction I call on everyone not to become complacent by this achievement, but to continue the advocacy and build on this achievement as even one unnecessary road fatality is one too many," asserted the NRSC chairman. "The fact is there are still too many persons being killed and injured as a result of road crashes."
Calling on Jamaicans to return to "common courtesy and care", Simpson Miller expressed concern over some acts of indiscipline which still persist on the nation's roads. "We are still concerned about our vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, particularly our children and the elderly, and motorcyclists. Too many of our drivers and passengers are dying and there is still too much indiscipline on our roads, including the breaking of the rules by road users," she said.
The prime minister called on citizens to commit to doing their part to further improve safe travel on the nation's roads. She assured that the "Government is committed to ensuring that all the necessary measures are put in place to maintain the momentum of achievement that has been generated by the NRSC over the past 20 years".
The NRSC was established by parliamentary statute to be the lead agency for promoting road safety in Jamaica and in implementing activities to reduce death and injury on our roads. The NRSC chairman has highlighted some of the achievements of the Council since its genesis in 1993. They include legislation such as the provision for the operation of the Breathalyser Programme in 1995 and the mandatory use of seat belts and other road-safety devices in 1999. Also, under the Council's leadership, a National Road Safety Policy was adopted in 2004 and a new traffic ticketing system was introduced in 2010.
A major feature of the thanksgiving service was a prayer by the Rev Astor Carlyle, pastor of the Webster United Memorial Church, for safety on the roads. He called all stakeholders in the transport sector, to come to the altar for a special prayer of thanksgiving and anointing.
The NRSC's Council includes representatives of the police, other public sector bodies, the private sector, JGRA, JAA and the Drug Abuse Secretariat.