Jamaicans have jump-started efforts to cut road fatalities in half by 2020, by forging several partnerships with government and other stakeholders, to build institutional capacity and generate individual support for the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.
The UN Decade of Action, which was launched worldwide, on May 11, was highlighted in Jamaica with the hosting of a National Road Safety Symposium at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge and Conference Centre at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona on May 5. It was a joint effort of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), The UWI, Mona and the Pan American Health Organisation.
“Jamaica currently suffers more than 300 road fatalities each year; and, the cost to treat injuries resulting from road crashes is $1.65 billion and rising,” Dr. Lucien Jones, Vice Chairman of the National Road Safety Council, stated at the symposium.
“Therefore, if we are able to reduce these figures by half, it will go a far way in helping us to attain our national developmental goals for 2030,” he added.
The Hon. Mike Henry, Minister of Transport & Works, highlighted several policies and programmes being pursued by government to address motor vehicle usage, road infrastructure and the conduct of motorists and pedestrians.
“We are committed to re-writing the laws and improving the policies and frameworks to make our roads safer,” he said.
In his address, David Ward, Director General of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Foundation, applauded the efforts being made in Jamaica to reduce road fatalities.
“Working with stakeholders in Jamaica to launch this Decade of Action has been a great privilege and it has been a lot of work,” he said, adding that the move was important given the impact of road fatalities on countries such as Jamaica.
“It is low and middle income countries, such as Jamaica, which are most affected by road fatalities, accounting for 90 percent of global deaths even though they only have 48 percent of the world’s registered vehicles.”
One of the focus points of the symposium was the move to establish a National Road Safety Institute at The UWI, to conduct high impact research that will guide the development of policies in road safety and infrastructure standards. The Institute will be established in collaboration with the NRSC and the UWI, and will examine critical issues for road safety development.
Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the JAA, whose organisation was instrumental in getting the current and former Prime Ministers of Jamaica to sign the original Make Roads Safe petition, which led to the UN Decade of Action; and also mobilised the support of athletes, said it was important to “have all hands on deck to reduce the number of road fatalities and preserve our human capital.”
Prior to the symposium, World Class Sprinter, Asafa Powell, and Champion Race Car Driver, David Summerbell, endorsed the UN Decade of Action, in support of more responsible road usage.
The JAA Chairman declared that, “We will continue to have everyone involved and at all levels,” and he expressed hope that, “we can indeed find the correct institutional framework by forming these partnerships to enable us to implement the Decade of Action in Jamaica, to our benefit.”