Cut traffic agencies some slack
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.
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.