Kingston, August 18, 2017 – The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) met with its Chairman, the Most Honourable Prime Minister Andrew Holness on August 10, 2017, to discuss matters pertaining to reducing the level of crashes on our roads.
Traditionally pedestrians account for the highest number of fatalities but since 2015 they have been overtaken by motorcyclists.
To date, 67 motorcyclists have died compared with 59 and 72 over corresponding periods in 2016 and 2015 respectively.
Prior to 2015 motorcycle annual deaths moved from 30 to 65 in 2014, hitting a historic high of 111 in 2015, the year it surpassed pedestrian fatalities for the first time as the leading category causing death on our roads.
This indicates a massive 71% increase in motorcycle deaths for the years 2014 to 2015. In 2016 there were 96 motorcycle deaths, representing a 14% decrease over 2015. Deaths among this group is the main cause of the erosion of gains made in reducing fatalities in accordance with the NRSC’s Below 300 programme, as was achieved in 2012 when 260 fatalities were recorded.
For the level of deaths on our roads to be significantly reduced to get back in line with the Below 300 programme, this group requires major focus and attention.
Most of these motorcycle drivers are from the western section of the island. In this area motorcycles are increasingly being used as a preferred form of transportation and motorcycle taxis predominate as a sought after form of transportation in communities.
It is believed that this unprecedented upsurge in motorcycle ownership is being fuelled by the ever increasing levels of “disposable income” of certain persons in the areas affected in the west, as well as the affordability of the small motorcycles.
When policemen try to educate motorcyclists and prosecute those who do not use helmets and otherwise contravene the law, community members do not cooperate with the police who are trying to protect them as well as uphold the law. This makes it very difficult to apprehend them when they break the law.
Additionally, when the police confiscate the motorcycles, the owners do not return for them, they simply purchase another motorcycle which they often do not license. This has caused storage capacity problems for the police.
Neither are the majority of the motorcyclists holders of a licence to drive their motorcycle. Some of them have a Learner’s Permit indefinitely as the Law is not specific enough to require them to upgrade to being certified to drive a motorcycle. The new Road Traffic Act plugs that loophole.
As most motorcyclists do not wear a helmet, over 90% of those who die or who are injured were unhelmeted at the time of the crash. This places a huge burden on the public purse and causes routine and sometimes urgently needed surgical operations in hospitals to be postponed.
The main intervention to stem the increase in motorcycle fatalities has been public education and sociocultural intervention which means putting “boots on the ground” to engage the various communities in an interactive manner.
Training sessions under the Back to Basics organization are being sponsored to work at the community level to sensitize, educate and some that are literate, have been trained, examined and licensed by the Island Traffic Authority officers deployed for that purpose.
Unfortunately, the high illiteracy level has hampered the licensing of several motorcyclists as they are unable to take the required Road Code test. Despite this, the fatality level was reduced by 14% in 2016 when compared to 2015.
The NRSC also solicits donations of helmets from various companies to distribute among the motorcyclists.
In addition to those measures the following proposals were discussed:
1. Apply a tax to the importation of motorcycles in an effort to decrease the numbers of motorcyclists on our roads. The tax collected would accrue to the National Health Fund for allocation to projects which promote health and wellness.
2. Reduce or eliminate the import tax on helmets in order to encourage the use of helmets.
3. Ensure that motorcycles cannot be sold without its safety device, the helmet.
4. Ensure that motorcyclists have their licenses plate number prominently displayed on their helmets and vest.
5. Enlist the services of the Jamaica Bureau of Standards to conduct a Regulatory Impact Assessment for the development of mandatory standards and technical regulations.
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