on our roads. However, in 2015 they were replaced by motorcycle driver fatalities for the first time. The statistics show that of the 382 persons who lost their lives on our nation’s roads, 111 were driving motorbikes. By comparison, there were 65 individuals who lost their lives after being involved in motorbike crashes in 2014 and 56 in 2013. This represents a 98.2 per cent increase over the period. This single fact is the main cause of the extraordinary spike in fatalities for 2014 and 2015. The root of this phenomenon that has emerged, seen mainly in the west, is the increasing use of motorcycles for transportation and for use as bike taxis. It is purported that this is fuelled by the increase in disposable income due to scamming.
This trend continued into 2016 but is being reversed by work done by a Motorcycle Committee established by the NRSC and chaired by the CEO of the Jamaica Automobile Association, using data analysed by Mona GeoInformatics Institute from statistics provided by the Police Traffic Headquarters. Also, important work is being done in the field by the Road Safety Unit of the Ministry of Transport and Mining. Motorcycle enthusiast young Tarik Kiddoe and his team have also intervened in training and sensitisation of motorcyclists in their communities, funded by the Insurance Association of Jamaica and Sandals. This team will continue activities in 2017 with NRSC support from funding allocated by the National Health Fund for our public education programme.
Other hard-working stakeholders such as the Island Traffic Authority go with the team to certify the trained motorcyclists right there in their communities in the west. This joint effort has been very successful and is the model for partnership that has served road safety promotion well over the years.
It must be noted that the above position with fatalities is within the context of a welcomed 25 per cent decrease in pedestrian fatalities, indicating that the focus on lowering fatalities in this group was successful. This gain however, was nullified by the upsurge in motorcycle driver fatalities, and the overall positive effect that it would otherwise have had on the fatality rate was not realised. Too often the focus is on fatalities, in spite of the reality that many more persons are injured in road crashes than actually die, thereby compounding the seriousness of this problem. Injuries from road crashes are a major public health concern. They are often disabling and contribute significantly to the disease burden — putting great demand and strain on the health services at all levels, and often pushing families below the poverty line when the bread winner is killed or injured.
Many crashes are caused by speeding, careless overtaking, failure to keep left and a general disregard of traffic signs and signals as well as the other rules of the road. Driving fatigued, under the influence of alcohol and while distracted by cell phone use and texting are also the cause of crashes.
The NRSC eagerly anticipates the imminent passing of a new Road Traffic Act. This Act has several provisions to augment the tools available to promote safe use of our roads.
We must continue work in this area to stop deaths from crashes overtaking HIV/AIDS as the number one cause of preventable and premature death.
We look forward, also, to discussions advancing to implementation of the use of electronic surveillance to curb drivers who exceed the speed limit, break the red light. Work on the review of the Spirit Licence Act to prevent under-age drinking of drivers who could then go behind the steering wheel, with disastrous consequences, is also advancing. The administrative operation of the Act for the granting of spirit licences is also being reviewed to make it more efficient.
The theme for World Remembrance Day for Road Crash Victims 2016 is: ‘From Global Remembrance to Global Action Across the Decade Vital Post-crash Actions: Medical Care, Investigation, Justice!’ The fifth Post Crash Pillar — Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 supports this theme as does the Safe Systems Approach recently adopted by the NRSC. The thinking behind this approach is that the human body, though wonderfully made, is not meant to absorb the level of kinetic (moving) energy involved in a road crash. Also, humans are not infallible, and mistakes that we make should not result in death or the sustaining of serious injuries when we err. We must continue to act to reduce the spike in fatalities destroying our people and impacting our ability to develop as a nation. This is why road safety promotion is as important as any IMF programme, as the two-three per cent growth targeted by our IMF programme is wiped out by the costs incurred as a result of road crashes. Road safety is everyone’s business.
Let us do all we can to make road safety a way of life to reduce the weeping, grief and pain. DR LUCIEN JONES Vice Chairman/Convenor National Road Safety Council