Editorial | Target bad drivers
Hardly a week passes without news of another horrific crash somewhere in this country. An average 300 persons have perished in vehicular accidents every year since 2012. Many of the victims are in the prime of their lives, young, productive and full of promise.
The messages portrayed by various road-safety campaigns are simply not reaching the intended target. There are more motor vehicles on the roads, and the drivers, particularly those who operate public passenger vehicles, are becoming more reckless and placing their and their passengers' lives at risk.
The average motorist will testify that he or she is a great driver. But driver error has been found to be the cause of most accidents. We submit that the accident dilemma, and the resulting road carnage, is caused by people overestimating their driving ability and the capability of their motor vehicles. Many of the people who now operate motor vehicles could benefit from refresher driving courses.
Therefore, a great deal rests on attitude and driver behaviour. Male drivers are involved in 80 per cent of the accidents that occur on our roads. Poor driving habits are shaped by aggressive and abusive behaviour exhibited by too many Jamaicans.
The simple truth is that many accidents could be avoided if motorists were to abide by the law. Many of the multiple crashes in recent times take place on recently constructed highways.
While speed and improper overtaking are the cause of accidents, we hear persons blaming road design or road obstructions and visibility for accidents. Driving at reasonable speed means one is able to brake in time to avoid a collision.
Road safety begins with the individual, whether one is a pedestrian, motorist, or passenger. And the big question is, how do we achieve a disciplined traffic culture? Does this need to start in the schools? And if not now, when do we begin?
The new Road Traffic Act, which will repeal and replace an 80-year-old law, was passed in the House of Representatives this week. It identifies new offences and comes with hefty fines for speeding, and other breaches, including the use of hand-held devices while driving.
New provisions such as making the owner of a motor vehicle liable for breaches committed by someone else operating the vehicle is being hailed as a significant step in the direction of accountability on our roadways.
Enforcement of laws lax
For too many people though, a problem is solved when the Government passes new laws. History tells us that government agencies have failed to effectively enforce the old law, as scores of traffic violations have piled up under the weight of a system that is not equipped to find and apprehend offenders.
Even after amnesty programmes were launched, many repeat offenders have thumbed their noses at the system. As we have observed repeatedly in this space, Jamaica is not short of legislation. One of the fundamental problems, however, is that the road traffic laws are poorly applied and unevenly enforced. There is already an existing body of law that is meant to keep road users from acting in a manner as to cause harm to others.
We hope that better manpower and modern technology will be provided to help the authorities do a better job of enforcing the law and keeping poor drivers off the streets.