Remarks at the Opening of Inaugural English-speaking Caribbean Road Safety Workshop
08 August 2019
Road safety remains a priority of the UN. The presence of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy is testament to that.
Dr. Alwin Hayles, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Mining
Mrs. Paula Fletcher, Executive Director, National Road Safety Council
Mr. Jean Todt, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety
Ms. Therese Turner-Jones, General Manager, Caribbean Country Department and Country Representative
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to be here with you today representing the UN Country Team in Jamaica. And on behalf of our UN Jamaica family, I wish to commend the countries represented here, for placing road safety a bit higher on your list of national priorities.
Please give yourselves a round of applause. (Pause)
Similarly, road safety remains a priority of the UN. The presence of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy is testament to that. As Jean Todt pointed out, the data has determined that we will not meet SDG three target 3.6, which is to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020. In spite of this, it is not too late for us to take action. The Third Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in February 2020 presents a critical opportunity to reposition and recommit, with strategic best practices at the country-level, in order to reduce road traffic incidents.
In Jamaica, road traffic crashes (RTCs) are the 11th leading cause of premature deaths. In 2014, some 13,000 injury cases from road traffic crashes resulted in over 300 deaths. This number remains relatively unchanged. These preventable incidents are a major health problem, placing an extraordinary burden on already struggling health systems and diverting funds which could be spent improving lives. In the 2017 report on “The Burden of Violence-related Injuries and Road Traffic Crashes to the Health Care System of Jamaica,” the National Health Fund and University of the West Indies reported that the estimated direct medical cost for road traffic crashes was J$1.4 billion and the indirect productivity cost was J$1.8 billion making a total (direct and indirect) medical cost of road traffic crashes J$3.2 billion dollars.
To put this into perspective, this estimated direct medical cost for road traffic crashes was close to 60% of the budget for goods and services of the 7 major hospitals that were surveyed.
Combined with violent injuries and suicides, the total estimated direct and indirect costs of RTC’s accounted for 1.2% of Jamaica’s GDP in 2014.
In each accident, RTCs can cost an individual from $100,000JMD to $9MJMD in medical costs. Not including post care in the event of permanent damage and disability due to crashes.
The Centre for Diseases Control estimates that road traffic injuries are the 8th leading cause of death globally. In Jamaica and indeed the world, it is the leading cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years old, accounting for close to 16% of child injuries and fatalities.
As we discuss over the next couple of days, let us not lose sight of the human faces behind these numbers, many of whom are children and young adults.
This year already, some 260 persons have already lost their lives in an RTC with others permanently injured or disabled. Eighty percent of these victims are men. What that means, is that this year alone, some 214 families lost a father, a husband, an uncle, a son, an uncle and one of their bread winners. Because of this, these families risk slipping even closer into poverty.
This reality hits home for me. Many years ago. I lost an uncle in a road traffic accident. That day, in a split second, my aunt became a single parent. And as she mourned her loss, she had to grabble with the new reality of taking care of her family in new ways. This was not always easy. In fact, they struggled most of the way, and I seldom saw my cousins after that point. This still saddens me today.
Colleagues, friends, there is work for us to do. But, unlike many other health emergencies we have the cure for this “dis-ease.”We can prevent road traffic incidents by:
Educating our communities beginning with our children;
Improve the traffic environment to protect road users with emphasis on pedestrians (particularly children, the elderly and the disabled) and let’s establish adequate pedestrian facilities. As we transform our countries and towns, road infrastructure must be resilient and meet global standards.
Let’s strengthen data collection on this issue, and let’s improve the regulatory framework and enforce laws that address, enforce and promote safe road behaviours like wearing seatbelts, helmets and child restraints.
It is no longer OK to speed, drink and drive or text and drive – especially with our children.
This is much food for thought. But to start, I encourage your full participation in this workshop. Please take advantage of the extensive knowledge and experience we have in the room.
Finally, on behalf of the UN System, I commend the Government of Jamaica and its partners for the extraordinaryleadership and commitment to host such an important event for the region and the world.