The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
UN Road Safety Week Launch
May 10, 2017
I don’t want to sing or be in the music video sir with advocates and ambassadors like Zoleka whose presentation almost caused me to reach for my handkerchief. Given that this is a formal event I controlled my emotions but you’re very moving and I’m certain that the listening world has heard your message and has taken it to heart and with performers like Tessane Chin and Agent Sasco who have volunteered their time to make a video like this which I think needs to be circulated widely.
As Yohan has said he should see it a million times on his TV. I think you should circulate that video as much as possible and I know that we have partnerships with the media but in today’s world of social media circulation is even more possible so we should increase our efforts in that regard. As Yohan has said leave the speed to him and Usain Bolt and Shelly and all the others and I do pause to recognize the passing of our Olympian; it’s a great loss to the athletic community.
We have Neka Thomas with us, a young student of the Queens High School who is the victim of a road crash and notice I am not saying accident; it’s a crash, it is avoidable and her parents are here as well. Neka sustained very serious injuries. I’m having two minds as to whether or not I should point this out but your injuries have resulted in the loss of a limb and I just did that to show the seriousness of road crashes and that we should take this very seriously as a country.
Former Prime Minister Golding, members of the cabinet, members of the diplomatic corps, my new friend Mr. Todt – UN Special Envoy for Road Safety and Zoleka I am told I should just call you by your first name because you are developing your own personality as a road safety ambassador, but Zoleka Mandela it is our extreme privilege, distinct honour to have such royalty grace us in Jamaica.
My colleagues in Parliament who have joined us, Mr. Saul Billingsley and Abby, Mr. Bruno Pouezat -my French is not good- our UN Resident Coordinator and of course I can’t speak about France and not speak about the new president who has got there quite quickly at thirty-nine, that’s a very familiar age. Mr. Mark Connolly, my friend at UNICEF, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Agencies who are here. Mr. Earl Jarrett the king of volunteerism and I like how it is put, you’re supposed to be the head of JN and of course in his absence Mr. Yohan Blake, members of the private sector, members of academia, distinguished guests, members of the media ladies and gentlemen, good morning to everyone.
Today is a call for action for countries to speed up the process of saving lives by slowing down on our roads. By the involvement of certain key people with us today, it is a clear signal that we are serious about taking the fastest route of action on this initiative. Without a doubt road safety is a priority for Jamaica and I am reiterating this as prime minister and chair of the National Road Safety Council.
Recently in my budget presentation I focused on a very important role of government which is to preserve life, to ensure that every citizen can enjoy the inalienable right to life and we examined the top ten causes of death in Jamaica and in the top ten would be road fatalities.
We brought this matter squarely within the context of the budget debate where the entire nation was focused. Jamaica is seeing some reductions. We want to make it sustained, we want to make it a systemic reduction and therefore we have examined the problem in two ways. There are things that government can do and there are things that people can do.
We’re on an exercise to improve our roadways; we’re building more highways with better road surfaces. It means that vehicles can use the roads much faster than they could before. That also means that the government has to from the outset design our roads with safety in mind and I’ve given that direction to our National Works Agency to ensure that all our new highways and all our new roads are being built, with safety features to ensure that we can enjoy the roads.
The highways and in particular the most recent one has some very lovely scenery around it. If you drive too fast you will miss it and with the roads as they are you don’t need to speed to get to where you’re going because they’re very easy to maneuver.
We’re also looking closely at the implementation of technology in managing traffic so very soon you will be seeing that there will be implemented a camera system for ticketing and tracking speed of motor vehicles across Jamaica.
As mentioned before we now have GIS data (geographic information systems) so we know where are the hot spots, where are the areas with the greatest probability for accidents to occur and the data is directing us to those areas. I’ve given again a directive to the NWA that there are certain areas which are well known that we will have to put in traffic calming measures, safety measures to ensure that we reduce the number of crashes in those areas but then there is a variable over which government really doesn’t have absolute control and that variable is the people behaviour.
I see superintendent and his team here today. He’s been doing a very great job in especially the enforcement of our tint policy. I got a report yesterday of the number of traffic stops and enforcement things you’ve done and I’m just doing this to show that I try to keep tabs on quite a bit of things and I do keep tabs on what is happening with road safety. SSP Allen informed me so far that in 2017 up to the fifth of May, one hundred and eighty- four thousand five hundred and sixty-six tickets were issued. This represents a twenty- four percent increase over the same period last year so the police have been very active in enforcing the road traffic act which a new road traffic act should be passed very soon. I see Minister Mike Henry nodding in approval that very soon we will have the road traffic act passed.
At least half of our accidents/ crashes have pedestrians or motorcyclists involved and I see here that we have ceased to date three hundred and thirteen motorcycles and I want to reiterate the appeal. Motorcyclists should make themselves and pedestrians very visible. I like the idea, glow, and we’re contemplating within the new road traffic act some measures to ensure that motorcyclists are identified which would mean that their helmets should have identifying marks which could include the license plate of the motorcycle itself and have vests that have their license plates on it as well.
The public can look for a new road traffic act which takes into consideration far more safety features than were in the previous one but with all the enforcement that we do it still requires behaviour change. UNICEF is here representing our children and by extension our parents and what I discovered being a parent and being the minister of education is that there is no amount of enforcement by strap or dictate that is going to be as effective as changing behaviour as by appealing to the emotions and reasons of our children.
So it is with our people especially Jamaica which is a democratic country where people value their freedom and often times use their freedom as they wish. The use of their freedom sometimes doesn’t always inure to the public or the general good and the way for us to change behaviour in Jamaica is not to take away people’s freedom but to reason with them. Show them reason because ultimately I believe that the Jamaican people are reasonable people and once you engage them – it is a fact that Prime Minister Golding and other politicians I’m sure will agree with that sometimes the most influential people to reason with the citizenry with the public may not necessarily be politicians.
I’m very certain that the video by Agent Sasco and Tessanne Chin will be probably have a greater effect than any appeal the political class could make. The political class has a duty to keep making that appeal and we have a duty as well to do the things that are within our remit with the resources that we have been given oversight of to ensure that this public good of reducing road crashes is achieved.
I’ve been challenged on two things. One of them I’ve been embarrassed about and the other I’ve been challenged on. We need to speed up the process of signing the various conventions and now that you have raised it in such a forthright and public manner but that’s your job, you’re advocates, that’s what you’re supposed to do and I know you’re going to visit us again. The next time I’m not hoping to have that raised so Minister Henry and the team from transport and mining and of course the ministry of foreign affairs, I will be paying a special call on them to get it done.
And the other is for us to commit to reducing road fatalities by fifty percent in 2020. I’m not hesitating to make such a comment. I think we should be ambitious and make these commitments; not promises but to make these commitments and we are by virtue of this statement, the government of Jamaica is making the commitment to reduce our road fatalities by fifty percent so I’m going to end where I started.
There are two factors in the equation. One for them the parliament has control of – the executive of the country has control of. We have the resources to put in place, the technology to ensure that our roads are built with safety up front and that we empower the police with new legislation and with the various tools to ensure that enforcement is done.
We also have the tool in our toolbox to build partnerships with various sectors to bring onboard influential people and advocates to influence and reason with the Jamaican people and indeed the common example for the rest of the world in changing the behaviour as to how we use our roadways.
We are committing to use all the resources at our disposal to ensure that we reduce by fifty percent by 2020 road – I’m not going to say accidents- road crashes in Jamaica. Ladies and gentlemen thank you.