It is time to make our roads safe

Dear Editor,

To all who have lost a loved one(s) on our roads, on behalf of the Alicea Foundation/Mothers In Black please accept our sincere condolences. We truly feel your pain as most of these crashes causing death and injuries are avoidable. They can be called accidents.

For over 15 years we have advocated tirelessly to stop this senseless carnage on our roads but our cries are ignored as we continue to shed tears. Most will agree that one single factor is an unlikely cause of these horrendous crashes. It is a combination of the following:-

* Ease of obtaining a licence
* Lack of professional driver training
* Lack of knowledge of the Highway Code
* Lack of vehicle maintenance due to cost
* Second-hand or worn tyres and substitute parts
* Age of the vehicles
* Irrelevance of the annual Vehicle Fitness Test
* Overloading of public transportation to maximize revenue
* Lack of sleeping policemen (road bumps) to prevent speeding
* Consumption of alcohol and/or drugs.
*  Speeding

In many instances, particularly in the case of those persons driving our public transportation, the drivers are underage, do not have a licence or have brought their licence as they are unable to read or write. Generally, inexperienced drivers learn to drive in a compound and not on our roads and are coached by existing drivers who ensure their own bad habits are replicated by the novice driver.

Some years ago the Jamaican Government along with the Jamaican National Road Safety Council took drastic measures and suspended all maxi-taxis traversing their roads for a maximum of two months to enforce a legal requirement for all mini-bus drivers to participate and pass an advanced driving instruction test. In addition all drivers, owners and conductors received further education in customer care to raise their awareness of the need for courtesy towards their customers, the mini-bus commuters.

After satisfactory completion of this special safe driving education programme the mini-bus drivers and conductors were then granted a mini-bus licence and ID with photograph included. A mandate of wearing a uniform was also enforced. Bus stops were constructed using funds from paid advertising on the outside of the bus stops that included road safety warnings.

The outcome of this exercise reduced road fatalities and injuries in Jamaica by 50%.

The above factors may initially be a huge expense and inconvenience to many but in the long term less expensive than the cost of human tragedy, vehicle replacement and medical expenses.

Pedestrians and commuters should also take some responsibility. Why remain inside a speeding vehicle or enter a vehicle when the driver is/has been drinking?

Road users are being abused by mini-bus/taxi drivers and yet say or do nothing.

Road deaths have become an epidemic in our country. When we lose our loved ones so abruptly they call it an accident, but for us it is a life-long pain that we have to live with. It is time to make our roads safe.

Yours faithfully,
Denise Dias
The Alicea Foundation/Mothers In

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