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The JAA’s Alan Beckford: Going The Distance For Drivers

By March 13, 2009No Comments

Every serious distance runner knows it. Many refer to it as “the wall”. It is that point in a run (be it competitive or solo) when one has reached the known limits of endurance. The muscles tighten, the breath shortens and the brain sends messages that no further forward movement is desirable or even possible, the runner’s equivalent of legendary boxer Roberto Duran’s  “no mas”.

A competitive runner himself, Alan Beckford, General Manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), a subsidiary of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), knows all too well the above syndrome and further knows the value of pressing through till the point where the ‘second wind’ arrives and the adrenaline returns. It has seen him safely through many a race, including last year’s Sigma 5K; but, also through the varied challenges presented by life in a rapidly changing post-modern society.

It’s also a parallel for his work at the 85-year old JAA that dates back to a meeting held at the Institute of Jamaica, on December 15, 1924, which sought to provide assistance to motorists and contribute to improved road safety and overall better motoring.

Of course, the founders would scarcely recognize today’s Jamaican motoring landscape, the numbers of motorists and motor vehicles on the island having increased exponentially. The JAA itself had effectively been in a state of dormancy for the past several years, but was revived in 2007 through the acquisition of the organisation by Jamaica National.

Today, the Jamaica Automobile Association presently offers the following benefits to members: vehicle registration renewal, in the Corporate Area; 42-hour emergency road service across the island; and assisting members to get started in the event of breakdowns requiring minor repair work.
The JAA is rapidly being recognized for a greater variety of benefits. Beckford points out, the portfolio of organization, having been expanded, is gearing up to assist persons in many facets of their lives, including travel and lodging; auto buying, leasing, renting, and repair; and may eventually include financial services such as credit cards and insurance needs.

He adds that Jamaica, as the most active English-speaking Caribbean island that is on board with the FIA Foundation, is also able to offer JAA members access to benefits on a global scale, through reciprocity agreements with clubs in more than 120 countries. These benefits include savings at 155,000 locations worldwide as part of the JAA ‘Show Your Card and Save’ programme.

“Let’s say you’re a member and you’re taking your family to Orlando, Florida on vacation. Under the programme, with your card, you can save on car rental and accommodation rates, as well as save on admission to attractions such as Disney World.”

Another important role for the JAA, as a member of the National Road Safety Council, is road safety advocate. “Through our membership in the FIA that we are able to continue our role of being an advocate for road safety and protecting the rights of our motorists and have been able to participate in the ‘Think Before You Drive’ road safety campaign,” Beckford states. More recently, the JAA has partnered with Mona GeoInformatics Institute to offer GPS navigation and tracking devices for drivers.

He pointed out that the FIA will be distributing eight million leaflets and tyre gauges worldwide this year and of this amount, 200,000 have been allocated to the JAA, which they have been giving out. The Association also helped to launch the local leg of FIA’s global Make Roads Safe campaign to petition authorities, motorists and all road users to get global action on road safety as part of United Nations and G8 Nations Development Agendas.
For almost as long as there have been cars, the canary yellow square of the is recognized the world over, especially by motorists in distress who need roadside assistance, or by others consulting its various road maps and travel guides.

In addition to being the governing body of motor sport worldwide, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the FIA, has been dedicated to representing the interests of motoring organizations and motor car users throughout the world. This combination of road and track gives the FIA a unique responsibility as an independent world body concerned with a wide range of automotive, motoring and mobility issues.

The FIA is a non-profit making association which brings together 222 national motoring organizations from 130 countries on five continents. Its member clubs represent more than 150 million motorists and their families.

The JAA is also affiliated to the worldwide Association, Alliance Internationale de Tourisme (AIT) Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

So, for those motorists who, in one form or another, have figuratively ‘hit the wall’ (hopefully not literally, but assistance is still available in such cases),  the canary yellow will be there to provide the necessary ‘second wind,’ symbolizing safer roads and a better quality of life for Jamaicans.