Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), is expressing concern about the escalating death toll from road accidents and road safety issues. According to Mr. Jarrett, the recent Milbank collision, which claimed 14 lives last week, emphasizes the urgent need for the implementation of further strategies to improve road safety and enhance road maintenance programmes.
Some of these strategies, he said, are outlined by the Save 300 Lives programme launched in November.
“The programme is a multi-sectoral approach to preventing collisions and reducing their impact socially and economically. Save 300 incorporates action from the health, transport, financial and planning spheres of government and is fuelled by a public education programme aimed at fostering good road habits among Jamaicans,” explained Jarrett who co-chairs the National Road Safety Council.
Mr. Jarrett added that if rural-based Jamaicans are to benefit from current economic and social development afforded to Jamaicans living in urban areas, a safer and more reliable road network, as well as improved methods of transportation must be in place for rural folk.
“The Milbank incident sharply pulls focus on the critical need for systematic and sustained road maintenance. Features such as safety barriers and retaining walls must be a part of road building. Road safety must be a priority for development and should factor in long-term developmental plans for the country. The incident reiterates the need for other sustained programmes such as the Save 300 Lives project,” he stressed.
Commending recent local and international government initiatives to boast road safety, Mr. Jarrett stated that the government has indicated a clear commitment to reduce road deaths.
“But, it is now even more important for the Government through the Ministry of Transport and Works to implement initiatives which it has expressed support for,” the JAA Chairman declared.
Citing an example of government’s steps to enhance road development strategies, he referred to the recently implemented iRAP programme, which will develop a database of danger spots or ‘red zones’ along Jamaica’s roadway. The data gleaned will inform road safety policy as well as road building and maintenance. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Transport and Works with funding from the Jamaica Automobile Association.
However, Mr. Jarrett said there are other areas, which demand immediate attention. “The review and implementation of an updated Road Code, and increasing the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s power of arrest relating to traffic violation are but two areas which require urgent action,” pointed out Mr. Jarrett who is the general manager of the Jamaica National Building Society.
The Jamaica Automobile Association has been advocating for government action in these areas since the launch of its Make Roads Safe (MRS) campaign in 2008. The MRS campaign petitioned the United Nations to recognize road fatalities as a constraint to development and to fund initiatives to improve road safety especially in developing countries.
“Our Prime Minister was a signatory to the petition, again demonstrating the commitment of the government. What is necessary now, is greater implementation of the programmes necessary to save lives and increased collaboration with private sector entities,” Mr. Jarrett emphasized.