His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, GCVO paid a visit to the Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing on Monday, April 15, 2013.
The visit which was facilitated through the National Road safety Council focused on road safety and allied matters. Prior to the visit to the Ministry, the Prince and his entourage toured the Traffic Management Centre of the National Works Agency where head of the Centre, Mr. Michael Saunderson demonstrated the road safety and traffic enforcement support capabilities of the Centre.
During the meeting at the Ministry, presentations were made by several persons associated with the road safety agenda. In opening the meeting, Minister Omar Davies pointed to increased collaborations between the Ministry of Transport, Works & Housing and other stakeholders such as other Ministries, the NRSC, Insurance Companies in championing the road safety message. He also highlighted the fact that the Ministry would be working assiduously to have the overhauled Road Traffic Act passed through Parliament this financial year.
For her part, Dr. Marion Bullock-DuCasse, Principal Medical Officer used the opportunity to outline the impact of traffic crashes on the health sector. She said that in 2005, traffic crashes resulted in a loss of earnings to the tune of $2.5B. She said that even though there was a decline in the number of fatalities for 2012, it was still at an uncomfortably high figure and the injuries figure has been climbing. She went on to point out that the majority of accident victims are passengers in motor vehicles and that 58% of those injured do not wear any safety gear.
Mrs. Paula Fletcher, Executive Director of the NRSC explained the three part approach to road safety; these she outlined as safe roads, safe vehicles and safe drivers. She explained that the NRSC is engaged in a number of initiatives to help stem the tide in road crashes. Among them is a graduated driver licensing system as well as the introduction of a new driver instructional manual. She said that consideration is also being given to reviewing the driving test with a view to making it more objective.
In seeking to get and understanding of the complexity of the road safety issue in Jamaica, Prince Michael sought to find out to what extent enforcement was being done; for eg in the wearing of seat belts. In responding, Mrs. Fletcher said that though some attempt to do this takes place, it is not where persons would like it to be. She cited the wearing of seatbelts in the back of motor vehicles as one problem area. She said she would like to see demerit points being deducted from the licenses and ultimately the suspension of the licenses of errant motorists. She also pointed to the rolling out of a seatbelt campaign as another area in which the Council is looking with a view to improving road safety in Jamaica.
Other presenters at the meeting included, Mr. Earl Jarrett , Chairman, Jamaica Automobile Association, Mr. Victor Anderson, Co-ordinator of the ‘Below 240’ Programme as well as other members of the Prince’s party.