Economist and former lecturer at the University College of the Caribbean, Kemmehi Lozer, says keen attention needs to be paid to the impact on road crashes on the country’s male population, which negatively affect productivity.
The majority of victims of road crashes are males who are at their most productive age, he pointed out, and the impact on their families adds further injury to economic achievement of households.
Citing the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility Report, Mr Lozer said road crashes represented about 4.5 per cent of Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP). He said this is a major issue since most of the victims of road crashes are males, especially young men between the ages of 18 and 49.
“Males make up the largest percentage of the labour force in Jamaica. Sadly, males in their productive years also make up the highest percentage of road fatalities in the country as well,” he said. “Approximately 75 per cent of all road crash victims in Jamaica are between the ages of 15 and 64 and roughly 80 per cent of that number are males. Therefore, any deaths or serious injury as a result of road crashes will result in a loss to productivity and impact on our GDP in a significant way.”
The impact on families exacerbates the problem, Mr Lozer added.
“If you remember the [UN and JN Foundation] Cost of Care Report which was released in 2017, it presented the case of a 24-year-old motor cyclist who was hit by a motor car. The report said at the time it cost approximately $9 million to treat him. Considering that that report was compiled roughly six years ago when things were less expensive, it is significantly more now. Also when you multiply that figure, which is an estimate of the true cost, by the time you multiply that by the roughly 80 or so males who sustain injuries annually, you are looking at billions to treat them which impacts the health sector,” he stated.
“If you add the fallout for families, the numbers are more disturbing because many are either plunged into poverty or into further hardships because breadwinner has passed away, or, funds will have to be found to care for them especially if they are unable to work again. Therefore, more needs to be done to educate Jamaicans about road usage. We need to emphasize to motorcyclists especially, the need to wear protective gear such as helmets. There also needs to be messaging about responsible road usage such as adhering to the road code and paying attention to road markings and traffic signals,” he added.
Orthopaedic Surgeon at the St Ann’s Bay Hospital Cary Fletcher, who conducted a study between 2016 and 2018 examining the impact of motorcycle crashes on the St Ann’s Bay Hospital, notes that the cost to health system and the impact on families may be higher than reported. He said motorcyclists who are number one when it comes to road user fatalities, made up 98 per cent of the study with almost 70 per cent of the study population being below the age of 40. The study covered patients from the entire North Eastern Health Authority that is St Ann, St Mary and Portland.
“When you consider the wages of all medical and non-medical staff involved in patient care, the cost to the government with regards to the use of the operating theatre (staff, equipment and drugs used etc), these are prohibitive considering that many of these crash victims require multiple surgical procedures due to the severity of the injuries. There are also long term costs to consider such as rehabilitation, lost time from work, psychological support,” he said.
He added that most of the victims had injuries to their lower bodies.
“Fifty-five per cent of the injuries involved the lower limbs (defined as from the foot to the hip). These lower limb injuries are not only the commonest injuries, but also the injuries requiring greatest need for hospital admission and need for surgery which both speak to how bad the injuries are. I’m therefore imploring to desist from wearing shorts and slippers and wear lower limb protective gear in addition to a helmet. At the very least cover your skin,” he added.
Owen Smith, general manager, Jamaica Automobile Association explains that the economic and social impacts of road crashes on families and the country are the main reasons the organisation has remained a major advocate for road safety.
Fatalities from road crashes remain high across Jamaica despite various national efforts to keep them down. More than 460 died in 2021 according to media reports, and a similar number had died at the close of 2022 on Saturday.
“This is why we have advocated for safe and responsible driving on our roads and conducted initiatives such as mapping Crash Hot Spots island wide in partnership with JN General Insurance, our sister company. We recognize that more needs to be done to save more lives on the nation’s roads and we will be implementing more initiatives and partnerships this year as we seek to help Jamaica achieve its goal of a 50 per cent reduction in road fatalities.”
Dr Fletcher is also advocating for motorcyclists to be trained in an effort to reduce road fatalities.
“Over the period of the study, we found that loss of control and poor judgement when executing an overtaking accounted for 80 per cent of the injuries we saw, which means most injuries were preventable. Had they been formally trained, they would have likely not had these injuries,” he said.
He revealed that only three of the 155 riders in the study had been trained. As a result, he wants more to be done which would reduce fatalities.
“The government needs to expand training of the motor cyclists island wide as it is only done in Westmoreland and St Elizabeth. Training is necessary not only to improve the skill level especially when performing emergency maneuvers, but also to change the culture of riders to get greater compliance with appropriate gears, and behaviour,” he said.