PRIME Minister Andrew Holness said that the upcoming revised Road Traffic Act will take into consideration more safety features and that the Government will be looking at the implementation of technology in managing traffic, such as a camera system for tracking the speed of moving vehicles, among other important elements.
Holness was speaking at a special function held to mark the fourth United Nations Global Road Safety Week (May 8 – May 14) held at Jamaica House on Wednesday.
The event — which had in attendance various local and international road safety and traffic representatives such as Jean Todt, UN special envoy for road safety; and Zoleka Mandela, granddaughter of former South African leader Nelson Mandela — was staged to help shed light on the ongoing global #SlowDown campaign.
The 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 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 (2030).
The prime minister, before starting his address, brought attention to the presence of second-form The Queen’s High School student Nneka Thomas who, due to a road accident in 2014, had her right leg amputated.
“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 here with us today, it is a clear signal that we are serious about taking the fastest route to action on this issue,” Holness said in his address.
He said that, undoubtedly, road safety is a priority for Jamaica and indicated that in his recent budget presentation he focused on a very important role of Government, which is to preserve life and to ensure every citizen can enjoy the inalienable right to life.
The PM said road fatalities could be counted as being among the 10 causes of death, but highlighted that Jamaica is seeing some reduction where this is concerned.
“We want to make it (reduction) sustainable, we want to make it a systematic reduction, therefore we have examined the problem in two ways — there are things that Government can do and there are things that people can do,” the prime minister told attendees.
“We’re on an exercise to improve our roads; we are building more highways with better road services. It means that motorists can use the roads much faster than they could before and also means that the Government has to, from the outset, design our roads with safety in mind,” he continued.
In addition to the implementation of a camera system, the PM pointed out that geographical information system data has enabled them to know where crash hotspots are as well as areas with the greatest probability for accidents to happen, and so they can know where to enforce safety measures to reduce the number of crashes.
He said at least half the crashes have pedestrians or motorcyclists involved, and stated the numbers have shown to date that 313 motorcycles have been seized.
“I want to reiterate the appeal made earlier that motorcyclists and pedestrians should make themselves very visible, and we are contemplating within the new Road Traffic Act some measures to ensure that motorcyclists are identified, which would mean that their helmets should have identifying marks which could include the licence plate of the motorcycle itself and the vest could have the licence plate on it as well,” Holness said.
He said, however, that while the new Road Traffic Act will take into consideration far more safety features than the previous one, even with all the enforcement they do, the variable over which the Government doesn’t have absolute control is that of people and their behaviour.