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12-y-o appeals to prime minister to protect kids from car crashes

Published:Thursday | April 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Sesame Street character Grover (right) get a hug from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller during the official launch of the third United Nations Global Road Safety Week, which was held at the ATL Showroom in St Andrew yesterday.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (right) hugs Najeebe Bayley, student at Mona Heights Primary School, shortly after she presented the prime minister with a plaque. Looking on is Adam Stewart, CEO and deputy chairman Sandals Resorts International and The ATL Group.

A 12-year-old student yesterday made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to help stem the number of children killed each year in motor-vehicle crashes across the island.

Since 2010, the Transport Ministry says approximately 561 children were among the 1,525 persons killed in the carnage on the nation's roadways.

"If you care for us, give us a chance to grow and take our place to contribute to the development of Jamaica land we love," said Najeebe Bayley, a student of Mona Heights Primary School in St Andrew.

Bayley's plea came after she presented Simpson Miller with a document called the Child Declaration for Road Safety during the launch of the third United Nations Global Road Safety Week at the Appliance Traders' Limited's showroom in St Andrew yesterday.

Global Road Safety Week is set for May 4-10 under the theme, 'Save Kids' Lives'.

"Madam Prime Minister, please, please save kids' lives," the 12-year-old continued.

The Road Safety Unit in the transport ministry reports that, up to yesterday, nine children have been among the 124 persons killed on the nation's roadways since the start of the year.

Simpson Miller, in her address, gave the assurance that reducing road fatality "remains a top priority for action" for her administration.

"... Because year after year hundreds of our people, including many of our children, are killed as a result of road crashes, buried with their dreams, talent and unfulfilled potential," she underscored.

However, Simpson Miller noted that the drive to reduce the carnage on the roadways would require more than new laws and or budgetary support.

"In addition to all of these factors, success in road safety requires all road users - pedestrians, motorists, motorcyclists and everyone, to heed the warnings and be careful at all times," the prime minister stressed.

"No child should feel threatened as they travel daily to school, church or to participate in social activities. We have to protect our children," she continued.

Minister without portfolio in the Transport Ministry Dr Morais Guy, who also addressed the ceremony, revealed that motor-vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death among persons in the 15-29 age group.

According to Guy, a breakdown of the 124 road deaths recorded so far this year shows that 30 per cent were motorcyclists, 27 per cent pedestrians, five per cent pedal cyclists and two per cent pillion passengers.

"What this means is that one in every four persons killed is a pedestrian or, to portray an even graver statistic, one in every two persons killed on the [road] network is either a pedestrian or a motorcyclist," he said.


Public education seminars


As a result, Guy said the road safety unit is actively conducting public-education seminars at primary and secondary schools across the island, with special focus on schools in western parishes where a large number of crashes occur.

At the same time, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has indicated that it will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to traffic infractions such as improper use of the roadways, and failure to wear seat belt and helmet.

Since the start of the year, Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake said the police have prosecuted 3,147 persons for failing to wear helmet.

Blake, who heads the JCF's operations portfolio, said of this number 1,737 or 55 per cent, were in Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Hanover and St James.