UNITED Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt will join Jamaicans in marking the fourth United Nations Global Road Safety Week, which will be observed from May 8 – 14 under the theme ‘Slowing Down Saves Lives’.
The main event of the week’s activities will be held on Wednesday, May 10 at Jamaica House, where Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who is also the chairman of the National Road Safety Council, will deliver the opening speech.
Todt, a French motor sport executive and former rally co-driver, will deliver the keynote address at the event. Zoleka Mandela, granddaughter of former South African leader, Nelson Mandela, who serves as the ambassador for the Global Initiative for Child Health & Mobility, will also address the event, which is a joint initiative of the National Road Safety Council and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Todt, who was appointed by then United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as special envoy for road safety in 2015, will throw his support behind Jamaica’s efforts to reduce road fatalities by launching action through the ongoing campaign: Save Lives – #SlowDown.
The #SlowDown campaign seeks to increase understanding of the dangers of speed and generate action on measures to address speed, thereby saving lives on the roads. It also calls for urgent action around speed management, to reduce projected road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2020 — the target established in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development for the next 15 years.
Wednesday’s Global Road Safety Week awareness event will culminate with the symbolic signing of an open letter by Prime Minister Holness, urging action on reducing and enforcing traffic speeds to a level safe for children everywhere, as well as prioritising low- speed zones in residential areas and near schools.
Other activities, 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 to be read in churches and schools, a ‘Slow Down Day’, certificates to recognise the work of school wardens, town hall meetings, and a road safety jingle.
The United Nations has continued 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.
Data has shown that a country can lose up to five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product as a result of road fatalities and injuries. 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, research, data collection, and legislative support that will allow Jamaica to reduce road fatalities to under 300 annually and meet the 2020 target.
Due to various multisectoral initiatives implemented, buoyed by the eventual success of the Save 300 Lives programme implemented in 2008, Jamaica experienced a declining fatality rate for two decades down 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 resulting from a historic spike in motorcycle deaths.
This upward trend continued into early 2016 but began to see a reversal due to intervention at the community level promoting motorcycle safety, which resulted in 379 fatalities being recorded for that year, down from 382 in 2015. The downward trend has continued in 2017, with a 20 per cent decrease in fatalities, to date, compared with the previous year.