Cut traf­fic agen­cies some slack

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE ED­I­TOR, Sir: I WOULD like to re­ply to the well-penned let­ter from Mark Camp­bell that was pub­lished on Oc­to­ber 14, 2016.

Most of what Mark Camp­bell, in his well-penned let­ter (‘Sky­high traf­fic fines won’t change be­hav­iour’) pub­lished on Oc­to­ber 14, 2016, stated was spot-on, as, too, was the gen­eral point of the let­ter. In­deed, harsher penal­ties for breaches of the Road Traf­fic Act, be it of 1938 or 2015, are not likely to yield any mean­ing­ful im­prove­ment in road use and safety. And as a corol­lary to the point on penal­ties, fo­cus­ing ‘al­most ex­clu­sively’ on en­force­ment is a bad habit we seem to have.

Where Mr Camp­bell’s ar­gu­ment could take some re­fine­ment, is his ‘calling out’ of the Na­tional Road Safety Coun­cil (NRSC), Na­tional Works Agency (NWA), and the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF). There is al­ways room for im­prove­ment, but all three en­ti­ties seem to have been work­ing as­sid­u­ously (within their means) to ef­fect im­prove­ments in their re­spec­tive ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity – ed­u­ca­tion and pol­icy, sig­nage and traf­fic man­age­ment, and en­force­ment. On the lat­ter, it is the stated ‘per­ceived ap­pre­hen­sion risk’ that is the bug­bear.

CAL­CU­LATED DE­CI­SIONS

The po­lice can­not be ev­ery­where all the time, nor can they be any­where all the time. Mo­torists know this and thereby make a cal­cu­lated de­ci­sion that prob­a­bil­ity will be in their favour. Any­thing we can do to cre­ate a sus­tained pres­ence should be pur­sued with fer­vour, but po­lice re­sources are fi­nite and traf­fic needs must be bal­anced against the crack­down on scam­mers, sus­tained in­creases in vi­o­lent crimes in St James, the over­ar­ch­ing cul­ture of drugs, guns and ‘ban­dooloo’, and the myr­iad of other crime chal­lenges.

The NRSC is not only re­spon­si­ble for ed­u­ca­tion, but for lob­by­ing the Gov­ern­ment for changes in reg­u­la­tions and leg­is­la­tion – such as the re­cently tabled Road Traf­fic Act 2015. I can­not speak to the ex­tent of the coun­cil’s in­volve­ment, but I sus­pect it had a lot to do with the sweep­ing changes to be found in the new Road Traf­fic Bill.

As for the NWA, its con­tin­ued progress in creat­ing an in­tel­li­gent trans­porta­tion sys­tem can­not be too highly praised con­sid­er­ing their lim­ited re­sources. They con­tinue to de­ploy elec­tronic equip­ment to mon­i­tor traf­fic vol­umes and flow, and, I can only as­sume, de­tect breaches of the Road Code and Road Traf­fic Act. The NWA’s best ef­forts to main­tain proper sig­nage is iron­i­cally im­peded by the ac­ci­dents caused by the very bad driv­ing they are try­ing to pre­vent.

None of these en­ti­ties de­serves a free pass. But what they need and de­serve is our sup­port, as we all try to find so­lu­tions to the in­crease in road fa­tal­i­ties.

I call on the NRSC, JCF, NWA, as well as the re­spon­si­ble min­istries, to ap­ply new think­ing and new ap­proaches to solv­ing our traf­fic chal­lenges. We must achieve more ef­fec­tive sig­nage, and in­ter­sec­tion de­sign and main­te­nance, more wide­spread and rel­e­vant ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns, and an im­proved mon­i­tor­ing and en­force­ment pres­ence. And it will re­quire those in author­ity to think out­side the box, or to throw away the box en­tirely.

A.I. JOHN­SON

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