Fern White-Hilsenrath, Gleaner Writer
UN Headquarters, New York:
LESS THAN 36 hours after four young Jamaicans lost their lives on the streets of Manchester, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller added her star power to an international campaign to reduce road fatalities.
The Long Short Walk campaign is an international initiative being spearheaded by the Global Commission on Road Safety.
"Only yesterday [Wednesday] we experienced four fatalities from a crash involving three vehicles. It is heart-rending to hear of the deaths of four students. There is more work to be done! Even one road fatality is one too many," Simpson Miller said at the high-profile session.
"Motor-vehicle crashes take a tremendous toll on our societies, not only in terms of loss of national productivity and potential, but also at the level of our communities and families."
According to the prime minister, motor-vehicle accidents place an increased burden on the health sector and caused grief, pain and suffering to families and damage to property.
Jamaica's ambassador for road safety, athletics superstar Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, also threw her support behind the Long Short Walk campaign.
"With my achievement, I now have a responsibility to give back to the society," Fraser-Pryce told the gathering of world leaders and diplomats,
"We can - we must - do more to save lives on our roads."
HIGH NUMBER OF FATALITIES
According to a recently published Global Burden of Disease report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, motor-vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for young people worldwide, and next to HIV/AIDS, it is the leading cause of death for males between five and 40 years old. There are 3,000 road deaths worldwide daily.
In calling on the global community to assist developing countries reduce road deaths, Zoleka Mandela, granddaughter of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, was moved to tears.
"Road safety is not often considered to be a development crisis, but right before our eyes, every day, millions of children are being killed on our roads. Surely, this must no longer be tolerated," said Mandela, who lost her 13-year-old daughter in a motor-vehicle accident on the eve of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa.