Jamaica Records 20% Decline In Road Fatalities Due To COVID-19

NRSC Calls For Urgency To Complete Road Traffic Regulations To Maintain Reduction

The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) has announced that Jamaica has recorded a 20% reduction in road fatalities islandwide compared to the corresponding period in 2019 – an unexpected yet welcome impact from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

There has been a marked reduction in road crashes leading to 39 less fatalities, and the road user categories that contribute greatly to the fatality rate, pedestrians and motorcyclists, saw a 28% and 27% drop respectively. Other categories namely, pedal cyclists, private motor car passengers and drivers experienced a 42%, 34% and 33% decline respectively.

  

The NRSC projects that Jamaica will have less fatalities this year due to reduced road traffic as schools have closed for the present school year, several offices have staff working from home or have limited staff attendance at work. In addition, several establishments have been closed, including churches, bars, and major sporting and entertainment events have been cancelled.

As Jamaica grapples with how to deal with the pandemic, a gradual relaxation of the orders has begun to take place and road traffic is expected to increase. Dr. Lucien Jones, NRSC Vice Chairman cautions that, “Current reductions in injuries and fatalities are artificial, so we cannot rest on our laurels as there is still much work to be done to deal with the post COVID-19 period.”

Dr. Jones added, “The slowing of the legislative pace during the last three months has had a commensurate effect on the full activation of the already passed Road Traffic Act (RTA) of December 2018. So, the question is: will 2020 close without us having an operationalised RTA?”

Paula Fletcher, Executive Director, NRSC continues to call for urgency to “complete the formulation of the new Road Traffic Regulations so that the many best practices outlined will be available for the fight for safer roads.” She adds that the NRSC is proceeding nonetheless with work in the area of strategies to reduce motorcycle and pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Aspects of the motorcycle programme experienced a setback and the proposal is to reschedule the execution time. This is one of the activities in response to the problem that emerged with motorcycle fatalities since 2015, which is getting special attention through a Working Group tasked by the Chairman, Hon. Prime Minister Andrew Holness to implement recommendations formulated by the NRSC.

There has also been progress in moving to ensure motorcyclists obtain a driver’s licence, and importantly, that they pass the Road Code exam before getting a learner’s permit. This work is significant as the majority of motorcyclists are unlicensed. A major part of this initiative is to move this group towards getting certified, with buy-in to the life-saving benefits of using safety devices, particularly helmets, as over 90% of those who have died were not wearing helmets. “The World Health Organization (WHO) states that correct helmet use can lead to a 42% reduction in the risk of fatal injuries and a 69% reduction in the risk of head injuries,” said Fletcher. “We are thankful for the donation of helmets by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) which will be received shortly.”

The NRSC is ramping up its focus on reducing pedestrian fatalities and continues consultation with the relevant stakeholders. In this regard, the NRSC consulted with the relevant stakeholders to prepare a proposal which will be a Call to Action for presentation to its Chairman. As was done in the case of motorcyclists, the NRSC is anticipating that it will lead to a strategic plan for short/medium/long term intervention to promote pedestrian safety.

  

Fletcher added that the NRSC is encouraged to hear the report from the Ministry of National Security at the recent Full Council meeting that they have obtained hand held devices and portable printers to be used by the police, in the field, to make their work more efficient and to easily access information from their central database. They are scheduled to roll out a pilot project using these devices in July.

“The work continues, and we will not be overshadowed in the energy we place behind road safety initiatives, by the daunting reality of the leading news of the times,” Fletcher announced. Jamaica is beginning to open back up and the roads need to be safe as we work as a nation to rebuild and restore our lives and the economy.”

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