|The Hon. Mike Henry (centre), Minister of Transport and Works peruses a copy of the Jamaica Driver and Traffic Safety Expo booklet with Alphonso Grennell (left), Principal of the Grennell’s Driving School which hosted the Expo, and Earl Jarrett, General Manger of the Jamaica National Building Society and Chairman of the Jamaica Automobile Association.|
Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), has appealed to motorists to act more responsibly, particularly when driving on high-speed roadways.
Addressing the audience at the opening of the Jamaica Driver and Traffic Safety Expo at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, last Saturday (June 19), Mr. Jarrett stated that although the road infrastructure in Jamaica has improved tremendously over the years, to allow for faster and more comfortable travel across the island, poor driving habits and skills, are transforming highways into death traps.
“There is no question that there is a definite link between the high incidents of road crashes and stretches of smooth, well paved roadways. Therefore, we have a responsibility to ensure that we use the roads with utmost care and within the legally prescribed speed,” he urged.
During the past ten years, Jamaica constructed two super highways–Highway 2000, which stretches from Kingston to Clarendon; and the North Coast Highway, which speeds up travel from Negril to Portland. Both have been the scene of multiple tragic crashes.
The main speaker at the Expo, the Hon. Mike Henry, Minister of Transport and Works, also pointed to the need for motorists to drive responsibly on highways. Making reference to a high- speed collision that occurred on Highway 2000 in 2007, he noted that the message that “speed skills” seemed not be reaching some motorists; hence, the need to increase patrol of the toll roads. “More patrol cars have been assigned to the toll highways and that has since contributed to safer use of the roads,” he said.
Mr. Jarrett, who is also General Manager of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), emphasised that the high incidence of road fatalities was causing the country to lose vital intellectual and economic resources. “Added to this is the immeasurable human suffering and serious economic burden that is oftentimes left on a family, when the main breadwinner is injured or dies in a traffic collision,” he said, noting that, “Road safety is, therefore, without a doubt, one of the most critical areas that we must address.”
Although road fatalities have fallen by 30 percent so far this year when compared to the same period in 2009, the incidence remains too high for comfort, Paula Fletcher, Executive Director of the National Road Safety Council commented. She said that fatalities resulting from traffic collisions are second only to murder, as the leading cause of violent and sudden deaths in Jamaica.
“Road traffic injury is a major health problem,” Mr. Jarrett notes, “as it costs the health sector nearly $2 billion annually to treat injuries resulting from crashes, with lower and middle income countries worldwide paying out about US$65 billion.”
Pointing out that the motoring public is no doubt the single largest consumer group traversing the roads on a daily basis, the JAA Chairman said that, “Better driving skills and better driving behavior would make an enormous contribution to reducing the number of road fatalities.”
JNBS, over the years, has expanded its role to include the auto industry, offering motor vehicular insurance through its subsidiary NEM Insurance. It also offers roadside assistance and other motor related services through its subsidiary, JAA. The motor club also actively supports road safety education programmes in schools, in association with the Police Traffic Division; and national road safety campaigns in conjunction with the NRSC.