PM Holness hosts road safety advocates Zoleka Mandela and Jean Todt, for Global Road Safety Week
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), marked the fourth United Nations (UN) Global Road Safety Week, May 8-14, by hosting two distinguished road safety advocates, Jean Todt, United Nations Special Envoy for road safety and Zoleka Mandela, granddaughter of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, at a high-level event held at the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday, May 10.
In addition to hosting the two road safety ambassadors, Prime Minister Holness signed an Open Letter urging action on reducing and enforcing traffic speeds to a level safe for children in Jamaica, as well as prioritising low-speed zones in residential areas and near schools.
After signing the letter, Prime Minister Holness appealed for drivers, pedestrians and other road users to operate more responsibly on our roads.
“Today, is a call for action for countries to speed up the process of saving lives by slowing down on our roads. By the involvement of certain key people with us today, it is a clear signal that we are serious about taking the fastest route of action on this initiative. Without a doubt, road safety is a priority for Jamaica, and I am reiterating this as Prime Minister and chair of the National Road Safety Council,” Prime Minister Holness said.
He added that his Government has examined the state of road fatalities in Jamaica, and are implementing measures with the hope of reducing fatalities and preserving life.
“We examined the top 10 causes of death in Jamaica and in the top 10 is road fatalities. Jamaica is seeing some reductions. We want to make it sustained. We want to make it a systematic reduction. We have examined the problem in two ways. There are things that the Government can do and there are things that the people can do.
“We’re on an exercise to improve our roadways. We are building more highways with better road surfaces. It means that vehicles can use the roads much faster than they could before. That also means that the Government from the outset designed our roads with safety in mind, and I have given that direction to the National Works Agency to ensure that all our new highways being built have safety features in them,” Prime Minister Holness said.
The event, hosted in partnership with the FIA Foundation and NRSC, highlighted the ongoing global #SlowDown campaign, which seeks to increase understanding of the dangers of speed and generate action on measures to address speed, thereby saving lives on the roads.
The campaign also calls for urgent action around speed management to reduce projected road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020; the target established under the World Decade of Action for Road Safety was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly and commenced in 2011.
Todt, a French motor sport executive and former rally co-driver, delivered the main address at the event, where he encouraged Jamaicans to focus more on speed management and just only for Global Road Safety Week, which is being observed under the theme ‘Save Lives #Slow Down’.
“Speed management is a proven ‘vaccine’ that can prevent injury to all, including children. As with all vaccines, this one only works if we manage to deliver it, in this case to the streets and especially where children walk and live. So, we must rally political support, stronger regulations and donor funding behind a global effort to make every school journey safe; to workplaces, hospitals, schools, for every child, for everyone. Here, in Jamaica, which has gifted to the world the fastest and most entertaining athletes and champions we have ever seen, I make this call to the international community: speed up action to make roads safe,” Todt said.
Todt added that the United Nations will continue to support Jamaica in its bid to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2020, because of the implications it has for the development priorities of the country.
Mandela, who now serves as an Ambassador for the Global Initiative for Child Health & Mobility following the death of her daughter, Zenani, in 2010, who was killed by a drunk driver, also offered her support to Jamaica’s fight against road crashes.
During her address, she called for more emphasis to be placed on the safety of the lives of our youth while they travel on our roads.
“We are here today for one very important reason: to save lives. Worldwide, more young people are killed on the roads than from any other cause of death. Each day, 3,000 children are killed or injured on the world’s roads. This is a staggering number and it is totally unacceptable. The scale of this crisis is bad enough. Action on speed is the focus of this fourth UN Global Road Safety Week and it is a great example of what needs to be done,” she said.
The UN Global Road Safety Week’s campaign outlines the chief activities to be executed for speed management. Included are:
• Building or modifying roads to include features that calm traffic
• Establishing speed limits to the function of each road
• Enforcing speed limits
• Installing in-vehicle technologies
• Raising awareness about the dangers of speeding
On the national front, the activities for Global Road Safety Week, planned by a committee established by the Prime Minister and co-chaired by the Ministers of Transport and Mining and Health include: road safety messages from the Prime Minister read in churches and schools; a 'Slow Down Day' on Thursday and Friday, May 11 - 12; certificates to recognize the work of school wardens; town hall meetings, a road safety jingle and a national project. This project will be in the Eastwood Park Gardens area where speed humps will be installed to calm the vehicles speeding through this area.
Global Road Safety Week and the Save Lives #SlowDown campaign are expected to provide an opportunity for the National Road Safety Council and its members to intensify work in the areas of public education, enforcement, research, data collection, legislative reform and emergency response that will allow Jamaica to reduce road fatalities to under 300 annually and meet the 2020 target.
Due to various multisectoral initiatives implemented, Jamaica experienced a declining fatality rate for two decades up to 2012, when 260 deaths were recorded. This is coming from a high of 456 deaths in 1975 and 444 in 1991. Since 2012, however, there have been some challenges causing a reversal in this downward trend, leading up to 382 deaths in 2015 and 379 in 2016 resulting from a historic spike in motorcycle deaths.
We are now seeing a downward trend in motorcycle fatalities due to intervention at the community level promoting motorcycle safety.
In 2017, between January and May, there has been a 20 per cent decrease in fatalities, compared to the same period for 2016 year with there being 115 fatalities from 107 fatal crashes in 2017 versus 142 fatalities and 122 fatal crashes for the period in 2016. A total of 379 persons lost their lives from crashes in Jamaica in 2016.
The NRSC has recently made a move to embrace the Safe Systems Approach as a strategy to promote road safety. The Safe Systems Approach is a holistic view which provides a framework to assess, guide and improve travel safety. At the core of this is the need for responsibility for reducing risk to be shared by road users and those who design, maintain and operate all parts of the road transport system. This approach does not ignore risk taking behaviour, but acknowledges human fallibility and the need for greater allowances for human error and that these errors should not result in death or serious injury.