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JAA Targets Seat Belt Boost

By August 18, 2009No Comments
Hon. Mike Henry (right), Minister of Transport and Works, in discussion with  Emile Spence, Jamaica National Building Society executive in charge of the Jamaica Automobile Association. They were at the August 5 launch of the ‘Make it Click, Lives Depend on it’ national seat belt awareness campaign held in Kingston, Jamaica.

The Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) has launched a campaign to slash mortality in road accidents through increased seat belt use.

The target of the ‘Make it Click, Lives Depend on it’ seat belt awareness project is to reduce fatalities on Jamaica’s roads below 300 this year, stated the head of the JAA, Emile Spence. Initiated with assistance from the London based FIA Foundation under its Make Roads Safe programme, the JAA campaign is supported by an alliance of local partners.

“Our primary aim is to focus on this one element of road safety, and to highlight the impact that behaviour change toward the use of seatbelts can have,” Mr. Spence said. “We are losing too much human capital to road crashes.”

Road traffic incidents remain a major public health problem in Jamaica despite the introduction of breathalyzer, seat belt and motorcycle helmet legislation since 1999. A study conducted in Kingston in 2004 showed that seat belts were used by 81 percent of private motor vehicle drivers and 74 percent of front seat passengers, which was significantly improved from the 21 percent and 13 percent respectively in 1996 before the introduction of legislation.

Last year the country paid Euros 9.6 million on 14,069 hospital visits.

Statistics show a steady decline in traffic fatalities from 381 in 2006 to 350 in 2007 and 341 in 2008. Nevertheless, more than half of the fatalities this year were not wearing seat belts, said Kenute Hare, Director of Road Safety at the Ministry of Transport and Works.

This represents some progress from a peak of 444 fatalities in 1991 when the traffic density was much lower than the 378,000 vehicles certified to operate on the island roads in 2007, but when the necessary safety legislation did not exist.

In any incident, it is the collision of the occupant with the inside of the vehicle which usually causes death or injury. An unbelted occupant is thus a substantially higher casualty risk in an accident.

“While we have made strides in ensuring that the necessary legislative framework is in place to ensure that it is mandatory for persons to wear seat belt, we continue to have persons thrown from motor vehicles in collisions,” Mr. Hare said. “Launching a seat belt awareness campaign is both timely and welcomed.”

Speaking at the ‘Make it Click’ launch ceremony in Kingston in early August, Mr. Spence said the UN’s Global Status Report on the implementation and monitoring of road safety legislation in 178 countries showed Jamaica’s highest score was 5 out a possible 10 for effectiveness of implementation.

“The JAA has partnered with the National Road Safety Council on local initiatives such as the ‘Below 300 Project’, Mr. Spence said at launch. The project aims to lower road deaths below 300 by encouraging road users to obey speed limits, wear seatbelts, ride with helmets and avoid drinking and driving.

Road incidents are costing the country overall and lives are being needlessly lost, stated Minister of Transport and Works, the Hon. Mike Henry. He championed the launch of the new seat belt awareness campaign to help stem the slew of fatalities and injuries.

“It is our individual responsibility that we Make it Click,” Minister Henry said of the seat belt usage drive. “I endorse it (the campaign) wholeheartedly.”