On Wednesday, February 11, 2009 the Unit outlined plans it has undertaken to assist in the reduction of fatal crashes on our roads. The Unit also used the opportunity to recap some of the programmes that were carried out in the previous year. Keynote speaker at the event was Mr. Paul Clemetson, Director of the Road Safety Unit who deputised for Minister Mike Henry who was unavoidably absent.

In seeking to draw attention to the road safety challenges Mr. Clemetson highlighted the fact that over $2B was being spent treating accident victims. It was against that background that he took opportunity to appeal to all road users to be ‘Road Scholars’. ‘Road Scholars’ was the name of the Ministry’s Christmas campaign which was designed as a programme to enlighten persons on the safe practices that was expected of them. Some of those focused on were speeding, seatbelt and drink driving. This programme was one of the initiatives undertaken to complement the ‘Below 300’ programme which has been designed to keep road fatalities below 300. To this end, he said that the full implementation of the National Road Safety Policy should assist in achieving this particular goal.

On another note, the Road Safety Director called for passengers in motor vehicles, including back seat ones, to wear their seatbelts. Using statistics from last year, in particular the one that most of the drivers and passengers killed in 2008, were not wearing seatbelts, Mr. Clemetson said that this type of behaviour pattern is not acceptable as it is not consistent with the Jamaican law. He also enlisted the help of the JCF in dealing with these offenders as well as the parents of children who allow them to roam around freely in the traffic environment.

Turning to one of the signature programmes of the Road Safety Unit, the ‘Road Scholars Programme’, the ITA Director said, “The Ministry is working assiduously to create an enlightened road safety conscious society, as we are fully aware that if we are to achieve our goal of below 300 in 2009, every Jamaican, including myself, must work harder and become a ‘Road Scholar’ in 2009.”

The ‘Road Scholar;’ programme was a six week one that was aired on TV-J during the period December 7 to January 11, 2009. It was designed to encourage road users to practise road safety not only when driving, but also when walking. During the airing of the programme, questions were asked of viewers/listeners; those who answered correctly receiving prizes. Five of the twelve who answered questions correctly were on hand to ‘graduate’ on the day of the Press Conference (February 11). The five were presented prizes by Mrs. Barbara Cadogan, Senior Director, Human Resource Management and Administration within the Ministry of Transport and Works. Also on hand were various sponsors from the private sector who provided the prizes for the graduates.

Also speaking at the ceremony was Mr. Julian Thompson who used the opportunity to introduce the CARD campaign. In this campaign, children will draw/make/design cards with their own personal messages or note/letter and send them to persons they consider to be good drivers. The children will then submit their cards to the various radio/television stations where they will be used in a 3-5 minute segment of various programmes designed for CARD on the particular radio/tv station.

Entertainers will also be integral to the success of the Road Safety initiatives. To this end, several entertainers were on hand to lend their support to the road safety cause. These included, Harry Toddler, who in addition to speaking on behalf of Mr. Joseph Bagdonovich, performed; Tega, Morgans and Radical and a representative from the popular dance group Overmars who did the ‘Road Safety Dance’.