The following is a message from Andrew Holness, prime minister of Jamaica, on UN Global Road Safety Week.
It is my honour to address you in the observance of UN Global Road Safety Week 2021, and to share in the commendable UN mission of reducing global road traffic deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by the year 2030.
This year’s observance is, in fact, part of a broader, Second Decade of Action for Road Safety, and we in Jamaica will be playing our part to help ensure the successful design and implementation of a holistic plan to make our roadway “Streets for Life” in alignment with this year’s theme.
To this end, the Government is giving serious consideration to the recommendation from the World Health Organization for policy makers worldwide to adopt the Safe Systems approach – Safe Vehicles, Safe Speeds, Safe Roads and Safer Users – to reducing road traffic injuries and deaths.
Just under a decade ago, in 2012, Jamaica registered 260 road fatalities. The figure would not dip below 300 for the remainder of the decade and in 2019, road fatalities hit a gruesome milestone of 440. Last year, 2020, saw a marginal reduction to 424.
These are unacceptably high numbers, and we are already seeing an alarming trend for this year, with fatalities for the first four months of this year at 149. We have also seen a troubling rise in the numbers of fatalities involving motorcyclists, and this was even prior to the onset of COVID-19 and the increased reliance on motorcycle deliverymen.
In recognition of this alarmingly high number of motorcyclists who have died on our roads in recent times, the National Road Safety Council of which I am the chairman, has been mandated to work with the various stakeholder groups to plan and deliver Motorcycle Sensitisation and Safety Training, to emphasise the wearing of helmets for motorcycle riders and pillion riders. This is a good example of the safe systems approach, as in this project we are producing safe road users.
I welcome this opportunity provided by visionary leadership at the UN and WHO, and join with the international community in issuing a call to action to reduce speeding generally on the world’s roads, and in particular in urban areas. We must enact policies and adopt strategies to combat this international scourge of road traffic injuries which is now the leading cause of death in children and young adults in the age cohort 5-29.
In closing, I appeal to road users in Jamaica, the wider Caribbean Region and the Americas to slow down and live. Road safety has been, by commendable and sustained advocacy over many years, inserted into the UN Sustainable Goals, to which Jamaica is committed, and international partners should commit to scaling up significantly the flow of grant funds to the developing countries where 80-90 per cent of road fatalities take place; and where loss of life, cost of injuries and the consequences of lost income is often devastating.
Jamaica remains committed to playing our part, even as we fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure safe mobility and sustainable development. We want everyone to be safe to experience the rewards of life’s journey.
I wish you every success in this observance: Let us continue to Strive to Save Lives on our roadways and make them “Streets for Life.”
With God’s blessings, may we achieve these goals.