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Growth & Jobs | Jamaica’s road safety a major burden on development

Published:Tuesday | June 28, 2022 | 12:10 AM
A motor car that was involved in a crash in Kitson Town, St Catherine, on June 13.
A motor car that was involved in a crash in Kitson Town, St Catherine, on June 13.

With more than 400 deaths per year and hundreds more injuries, road crashes have become a major development issue for Jamaica, burdening the health sector and impacting the labour force, given the high percentage of especially young men who fall victim.

Summertime has traditionally been a high period for crashes on Jamaican roads, especially during the holidays, as persons usually plan road trips, vacations, and attend events to connect with loved ones and to unwind. Statistics provided by the Road Safety Unit show that from January to June 17, 222 persons perished in road crashes. The number of fatalities for the corresponding period last year is the same.

“Sometimes little attention is given to road safety in the heightened anticipation of group outings. It is important that while making plans for special trips, that one is cognisant of keeping safe, otherwise an outing can easily become ruined, even by a minor accident,” said Assistant General Manager of JN General Insurance Joseph Holness.

In observance of June as Road Safety Awareness Month, here are five tips to make road trips safer this summer and reduce the overall impact on the country’s key sectors:

1. DRIVE CAUTIOUSLY

“Be a disciplined and courteous driver. Observe speed limits, buckle up or wear a helmet if riding, obey road signs, indicate when turning or changing lanes, and only overtake when it is safe to do so,” Holness urged.

While caution should be taken on all roads, exercise vigilance on certain roadways where motorists are at greater risk for crashes. These roadways include Edward Seaga Highway; PJ Patterson Highway; Constant Spring Road, St Andrew; Mandela Highway, St Catherine; Duncans Bypass, Trelawny; Howard Cooke Boulevard, St James; Bustamante Highway, Clarendon; and Spur Tree, Manchester.

2. AVOID RISKY BEHAVIOURS

The use of alcohol and illegal drugs also impairs driving and puts you at a higher risk of losing control of the vehicle. A Drinking and Driving Report, produced by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, shows that an alcohol-impaired driver is 17 times more likely to crash than a sober person. This is because alcohol affects vision, reflexes and judgement.

Distracted driving, such as texting on a cell phone, also puts you at risk for a crash. Where possible, use Bluetooth technology if you need to talk on your phone.

3. BE MINDFUL OF CHILDREN

Children will be on holidays and will likely be playing outdoors. Be on the alert for children crossing, or even playing in the road. Also, pay keen attention to children who are accompanying you in your vehicle. Use the child lock feature on rear doors to prevent them from opening while driving, and ensure that they are using a car seat or booster seat, depending on their age and size. Older children should be in the rear seat and wearing a seat belt. Never leave children in the vehicle alone, even for a short time.

4. REDUCE RISK OF DRIVER FATIGUE

Long road trips can lead to fatigue. Ensure that you get six to eight hours’ sleep before a trip. Also, be aware of the side effects of medication that you are taking, as some cause drowsiness. Keep alert by taking frequent breaks and rehydrating. If you are feeling drowsy, drive to a well-lit public area and take a nap. Don’t be tempted to continue driving because you are near home.

“Driving while being drowsy affects your ability to be attentive and impacts response time when there is a need to brake suddenly. Moreover, you run the risk of falling asleep, thereby endangering your life and the life of other road users, which has legal implications if persons become injured or die as a result of causing a collision,” Holness warned.

5. PROTECT YOURSELF FROM GLARE

Glare from the sun or from the headlamp of an oncoming vehicle at night can impair your vision, thus affecting your ability to correctly determine the distance between you and another motorist. When this happens, reduce speed to lessen the risk of a collision. A glare can be worsened by a dirty windscreen. Check that your wipers are in working condition, and that sufficient windscreen wash is available, so you can clean your windshield when it becomes necessary.

In the daytime, use your vehicle’s visors to shield your eyes from the direct glare by positioning them on the front windshield or side window. A pair of sunglasses can also help to deal with this problem. Sunglasses should not be worn at night to protect against headlamp glares.

At night-time, bright headlights, which have similar effects as sun glare, can impair the vision. If an oncoming vehicle with bright headlamps is approaching you, avoid looking directly at the lights. Instead, look slightly away while maintaining focus on the road.

Have fun this summer while making road safety a priority, so you don’t become a statistic.

editorial@gleanerjm.com