As we heard the crack in Zoleka Mandela’s voice, describing her pain and that of other parents who have lost their children in road crashes, we pondered on the reason for the careless behaviour on our roads. We note statistics revealing that some 115 deaths on our roads and many more seriously injured.
“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,” said the regal Mandela.
Convener of the the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) Dr Lucien Jones has brought the passion of his Christian ministry to bear on his work. This combined with the business wizardry of Earl Jarrett resulted in the visit of Mandela and FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile — translated International Federation for Motor Vehicles) racing superstar Jean Todt. Last week, UN Global Road Safety Week, they joined with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, UNICEF Jamaica Country Representative Mark Connolly and Road Safety Ambassador Yohan Blake in a special appeal to stop the madness on Jamaica’s roads.
“The scale of this crisis is bad enough. But what is perhaps even more shocking is how little is being done to prevent it. We have the solutions, but too often they are not being put in place. The measures we need to save lives are simple: safe crossings for kids going to school; sidewalks to separate pedestrians and the vulnerable from vehicles; enforcement against drunk driving; and action on speeding.
“Action on speed is the focus of this fourth UN Global Road Safety Week, and it is a great example of exactly what needs to be done. With effective policing and measures such as road humps and traffic calming we could save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide each year.
“We’re facing a man-made epidemic and we have the vaccine — we’re just not using it. Can you imagine having a vaccine for a killer disease and not using it? Imagine leaving children to face illness or death and not acting. Yet this is really what we are doing. In failing to use the low-speed vaccine around our schools we are failing our children. It is their lives at stake.
“I’ve seen it in my own country. In my work with the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility we launched a project in one of South Africa’s poorest communities — Khayelitsha in Western Cape.”
Her words are familiar to our local situation: “In Khayelitsha you see the kids by the road each morning. Little ones, five- and six-year-olds, with their brothers and sisters, terrified to cross the road as the traffic bears down on them at 80 km/h.
“Early in the morning you see them trying to cross in the dark, taking their lives into their own hands. You don’t need to search too hard for what needs to be done. The answer is quite simple. Our children, our little ones, hundreds of them walking to school each day, should not face traffic at more than 30 km/h.
“Faster than 30 is a death sentence,” she emphasised. “For the sake of our children, low speeds are non-negotiable. It’s not just my own country; the story I witnessed in Khayelitsha is one repeated each day around the world. Millions of children are facing this horror every single day and we are failing to protect them.”
Mandela’s 13-year-old daughter Zenani was killed by a drunk driver in June 2010, and so she commented, “When the policies are not in place, it’s our families and our children that suffer.”
She evoked the courage of her grandfather: “I take inspiration in the life of my grandfather, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. We would all do well to listen to his words. ‘We must not despair. We must not accept defeat. We must not forget that it is in our power to change the world.’ ”
In response, Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted, “There is no amount of enforcement that is going to be as effective as behaviour change,” and urged the more frequent use of the Agent Sasco and Tessanne Chin road safety music video. He pledged, “We are committed to using all the utilities at our disposal to reduce road crashes by 50 per cent by 2020.” He has been an engaged NRSC chairman, and so we are optimistic. Everyone can take the pledge to #slowdown and #savelives.
JEF’s ‘Pathway to Prosperity’
There was a dynamic buzz at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, May 4-6, 2017, generated by the Jamaica Employers’ Federation annual Business & Workplace Convention, chaired by Wayne Chen, with the theme: ‘People, Purpose, Growth… The Pathway to Prosperity’. Jamaicans were once again challenged to leverage our countless attributes to lift the country to a place of power in the world. Large or small, companies are learning that our contribution to community development is a must for our mutual survival.
Farewell Keith Binns
Family and friends gathered at Boulevard Baptist Church last Saturday to say farewell to a wonderful gentleman, insurance expert Keith Binns. Karl Barth noted, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God, and so we can say that Keith graced countless lives with his special gift of laughter.” At the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, Keith added his special sparkle to our events. We extend condolence to his wife Lurline and family. Rest in peace, dear Keith!