Road traffic deaths must also be viewed as a pandemic, says Williams

MINISTER of Science, Energy and Technology Fayval Williams is calling for society to view road traffic deaths as a global pandemic in the way that the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is.

She made the appeal as she addressed the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) Virtual Road Safety Launch on Wednesday.

In highlighting the scale of the problem, Williams cited data from the World Health Organization (WHO) which shows that more than 1.35 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes.

More than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

In addition, 93 per cent of the world’s fatalities on the road occurs in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately 60 per cent of the world’s vehicles.

“As a country, we lose upwards of 300 Jamaicans per year due to road accidents,” Minister Williams lamented.

She said that as the country contends with COVID-19 and its impact on the society, the road safety message must never be lost.

“In fact, I believe that now more than ever we should be exercising even greater care on our roads. Our health sector is facing unprecedented challenges with COVID-19 and at this time, we cannot overwhelm our health professionals with road traffic casualties,” she added.

Minister Williams said she is pleased to see a reduction in road traffic deaths since the start of the year amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

Figures from the Road Safety Unit show that for 2020, fatal crashes and fatalities have both decreased by 18 per cent when compared with the similar period in 2019.

“With fatalities for 2020 projected to decrease by 11 per cent when compared with 2019, I believe we can take this downward trend throughout the rest of the year, if we exercise a greater duty of care on our roads,” she argued.

Minister Williams said that 2020 is a landmark year, as it marks the end of the Decade of Action for Road Safety proclaimed by the United Nations.

“The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that road safety is a prerequisite to ensuring healthy lives, promoting well-being, and making cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable,” she noted.

Meanwhile, Minister Williams commended the JGRA for being at the forefront of road safety for nearly 30 years and through the virtual Road Safety Launch, was able to broadcast the road safety message to a wider cross section of people.

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