Copyright (c) 2009 Michael Ogden
With my wife Alison, a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, I often try to write an article for their local magazine about standards of driving in countries we visit. So, we arranged in the past a number of trips to Kingston and elsewhere with Frances, a local taxi driver. I had noticed on the trip from the airport signs exhorting drivers to carry out simple actions to promote their road safety and that of others. I had also noticed that some drivers were reckless. I had my digital camera to hand to try and catch some of the signs. Jamaica has a large number of minibuses which ply their trade between the various parishes. Since they are constantly looking for fares, they can stop suddenly without any warning.
The first sign was in Ochos Rios about 30 minutes drive from Runaway Bay. It said ” PROTECTIVE DEVICES SAVE LIVES” with a picture of a safety belt and a crash helmet. Motorcylists often do not wear a crash helmet. The next sign said “ARRIVE ALIVE DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE” Yet another was “A CARELESS OVERTAKE MAY BE YOUR UNDERTAKE” or “SEAT BELTS SAVE LIVES – BUCKLE UP TODAY” or “PROTECT YOUR HEAD -DON’T END UP DEAD” or”SPEED KILLS -KILL YOUR SPEED” or “SLOW DOWN – SAVE A LIFE”
Is all this working? According to the statistics for 2009, they have a target this year for no more than 300 fatalities on Jamaican roads, yet they have already had 241 as at 23rd September 2009!
On our last visit in January this year, we noticed that the new highway was largely completely, permitting faster transit times between Montego Bay and Ochos Rios and westwards to Negril. Also from Kingston to Spanish Town and beyond to Mandeville. In Jamaica, they made the same mistake as Britain in the 1960’s in thinking that the railways did not pay and dismantled them. Our usual taxi driver, Frances, was not available. He had gone off to USA for an extended holiday. So we were steered towards a friend of his. I like sitting in the front passenger seat, but I quickly discovered that the seat belt was broken!
The speed limit on all roads is 80kms per hour except in towns or villages where indicated. The police also do spot checks and speed checks. But like in most countries, as soon as one is set up headlights start flashing to alert other road users that the police are there. The trouble is that speed checks are always in the same place! So is road safety working in Jamaica to reduce deaths on the road. Probably not. The Jamaicans are an easy going people who who like to do what they like. So the imposition of rules will take time. After all, it took years here in the UK for the wearing of seat belts to be accepted.
Source by Michael Ogden