Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, says the country is on track to achieve its target of less than 300 fatalities on the roads this year. This would be the first time in thirteen years that Jamaica has achieved this target.
“Indeed, the objective of reducing road fatalities to below 300 per year is on target, and at current levels, we are hopeful this goal will be achieved for the first time, in 2012,” states Mrs. Simpson Miller in a Message in observance of today as World Remembrance Day for Road Crash Victims. Her message was delivered by Health Minister Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson during a special Church Service at Tarrant Baptist Church, in commemoration of the Day. The Prime Minister’s comments come at a time when Jamaica’s road fatalities have fallen from 265 in the January 1 to November 16 period last year to 221 for the same period this year. This reflects a 16.6% reduction in fatalities.
Mrs. Simpson Miller credits the proactive public-private sector partnership on road safety, spearheaded by the NRSC, as being the driving force for the decline in fatalities on the roads.
“Through our National Road Safety Policy, road safety concerns and activities are high on the national agenda, and already we have been able to successfully mobilize public and private sector participation, including the support of the media, toward this national goal,” notes the NRSC Chairman. She however points out that although this year’s efforts of dramatically reducing road fatalities have been realized, Jamaicans should strive for even greater improvement in the way we treat each other on our roads.
“Admirable though this achievement may be, however, we must never become complacent, as there is always room for improvement,” states Mrs. Simpson Miller in her Message. “All of us – drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, parents and guardians, have a responsibility to help make our roads safer and I call on all Jamaicans to increase their vigilance and continue to exercise due care and caution and thus help ensure that the nation’s roads are safer for everyone.” She appeals to drivers to observe the speed limit and passengers to insist that drivers cut their speed and obey the traffic lights and signs. The NRSC Chairman also cautions drivers to refrain from using the cell phone while using the road.
Road injuries claim over 3,000 lives and seriously disable over 100,000 people every day. According to Prime Minister Simpson Miller, at such a rate, road fatalities could overtake HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of preventable death and ill health globally, by the year 2020. “Jamaica is committed to doing its part in preventing such a development through its advocacy and support for the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020,” she adds.
In addition to delivering the PM’s Message, Dr. Fenton Ferguson also brought Greetings on behalf of the health sector. He expresses concern that Jamaica’s health services are being critically over-burdened by the hundreds, even thousands of injuries resulting from road crashes, and the whole country suffers as a result. “Our hospitals and clinics are already fully extended or in some cases over extended. There are many instances in which elective surgeries have to be delayed, owing to emergency surgeries from road crashes,” laments Dr. Ferguson.
According to the Health Minister, the majority of persons being treated for road crashes are in the 20 to 29 age group, and this data points to the “carefree nature of some of our youths” as being the major contributor to road crashes. He says the data on emergencies treated at hospitals shows that male drivers are more likely to be the perpetrators and victims of indiscipline on the roads: “When the victim is a driver, they were eight times more likely to be male than female.”
He believes that despite the problems, there is a general decline in road crash related injuries. Dr. Ferguson cites a 6.5% decline in the number of road traffic-related injuries treated at the eight government hospitals in 2010 to 20122, and general decline in such treatment at those hospitals over the past five years; as proof of the improvement in road behaviour. He points out that with the exception of 2009, when there was a doubling of traffic related-injuries, all other years have shown marked reduction.
The Health Minister advises, “As we approach the Christmas season, let us all show our love for our fellow man and woman by being extra cautious on as we walk, ride or drive on the roads.”
At today’s World Remembrance Day Church Service, Rev. Jeffery Shuttleworth, Pastor, Tarrant Baptist Church, appeals to Jamaicans to shun the “voice of folly” and instead follow the “voice of wisdom”, which flows from Almighty God. In delivering his sermon entitled, “Competing Calls”, and using as his central text Proverbs 9:1-18, Rev. Suttleworth explains that when persons listen to the voice of wisdom, they reflect a lifestyle of Godly reverence, and respect to others, as well as a desire for discipline, honesty, compassion, care and justice.
“What Jamaica needs now is not more laws, or greater enforcement of the laws. What Jamaica needs now more than ever is more Godly fear,” declared Rev. Shuttleworth. Referring to the central text which states that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”, he explains that Godly fear means a reverence and a love for God. The Pastor emphasizes that the fear of God will help citizens to be more respectful to other road users and to everyone with whom they interact.
He attributes the carelessness on the roads, the prevalence of gangs and lotto scams, and corruption in many areas of the society, as a reflection that too many persons are listening to the “voice of folly”. According to the preacher, the Dancehall music promoting scamming as “reparation” is a proponent of the voice of folly and a reflection of what the bible describes as “stolen water is sweet”. Rev. Shuttleworth challenges, “If you are involved in scamming, gangs and corruption- it is a dead-end.”
Warning that the nation will go down a path of destruction, if Jamaicans continue to listen to the voice of folly, Rev. Shuttleworth issues the plea,” Jesus is calling on us as a nation to examine our ways!” Pointing out that Jamaica needs Godly fear if it is going to prosper, the Tarrant Baptist Pastor cautions that if we do not have Jesus Christ in our lives, there is no way we can have Godly reverence. He calls on every citizen to be cognisant that the eyes of the Lord are on us and so we should live a life of moral integrity, whether or not a police is watching us. Rev. Shuttleworth is stressing the need for citizens to be responsible stewards of the Lord on and off the roads. “It is a matter of life and death that we are more responsible…that we be more responsible stewards of the Lord.”
Among other participants in today’s church service were Dr. Lucien Jones, Vice Chairman / Convenor, NRSC who did the first bible reading; Paula Fletcher, Executive Director, NRSC; Margareta Skold, PAHO/WHO Representative in Jamaica; Deputy Commissioner Delworth Heath, and Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, Head of the Traffic Division, Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF). Among organizations represented at the church service were: Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association, Ministries of Transport and Health; Island Traffic Authority and St. Catherine Road Safety Committee.
In 2005, The United Nations General Assembly initiated World Remembrance Day for Road Crash Victims, which is observed on the third Sunday of November each year. Jamaica adopted the practice in 2006. World Remembrance Day for Road Crash Victims is aimed at recognising families, who have been bereaved, as a result of road crashes. The Day is also used to draw attention to the consequences and cost of road crashes.