Fifteen social media influencers have been engaged by the JN Foundation in an effort to promote road safety among Jamaicans while bringing attention to the current trends on road fatalities.
Up to Wednesday, November 29, 380 lives were lost on the nation’s roadways as a result of 346 fatal collisions, according to the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport.
Motorcyclists continue to account for the highest numbers of road fatalities.
Chelan Smith, media personality and digital entrepreneur of boutique digital marketing firm Chelan Communications, said that social media influencers can be drivers of behaviour change.
“I think social media influencers can be thought leaders for the younger generation, as well as for the older generation. I think when you have social media influencers driving home a point continuously, it will become more acceptable and would be more of a soft sell than a hard sell,” she said.
Similarly Jhunelle Jureidini, a travel writer and content creator, noted that the messages of social media influencers tend to be relatable to their audiences, which would make the initiative an impactful one.
“People tend to relate to us more because they trust us more. When you teach and educate people about road safety on a wider platform, such as social media, a lot of people will not only learn but will also be inspired to possibly change their behaviour,” she said.
Highlighting that there is a worrying trend where young men between the ages of 19 and 24 are dying as a result of motorcycle crashes, Claudine Allen, general manager of the JN Foundation, said the message of road safety must be communicated effectively to Jamaicans.
“The message has to be communicated in a manner that is authentic and relatable for the audience. Where road use is concerned, no one is immortal, and no one is safe from poor decisions or the poor habits of other people. We are all affected,” she said.
Likewise, Allen urged social media influencers to use their platforms to stimulate behaviour change among their followers.
“We want you to join the conversation and help us to save lives,” she said. “A lot of work has been done, but there is more to do, and we hope that this discussion today will be the start of a journey of collaboration and impactful, productive, relationships which change the behaviour of road users,” she stressed.
Seargent Craig Bonitto, of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch at the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), pointed out that for the past six years, road fatalities have been in the region of 400 deaths per year.
“As a result of road crashes, a significant number of persons suffer from serious life-changing experiences. It costs the Government of Jamaica millions of dollars to treat crash victims annually. Jamaica has a big problem [with] road safety,” he added.
He stressed that road safety should be at the forefront of the motoring public in Jamaica.