With more than 400 deaths a year and hundreds more injured, road accidents have become a major development issue for Jamaica, straining the health sector and impacting the workforce, being given the high percentage of particularly young men who are victims.

Summer has traditionally been a high time for accidents on Jamaican roads, especially during holidays, as people typically plan road trips, vacations, and attend events to connect with loved ones and relax. Statistics provided by the Road Safety Unit show that from January to June 17, 222 people died in road accidents. The number of deaths for the corresponding period last year is the same.

“Sometimes little attention is given to road safety in the heightened anticipation of group outings. It is important that while planning special trips, one is aware of safety, otherwise an outing can easily be ruined, even by a minor accident,” said JN General Insurance Deputy Managing Director Joseph Holness.

In honor of June, Road Safety Awareness Month, here are five tips to make road travel safer this summer and reduce the overall impact on key sectors across the country:

1. SAFE DRIVING

“Be a disciplined and courteous driver. Obey speed limits, fasten your seatbelt or wear a helmet if riding, obey road signs, indicate when turning or changing lanes, and only overtake when it’s safe,” Holness urged.

Although caution should be exercised on all roads, be vigilant on certain roads where motorists are more at risk of accidents. These roads include the Edward Seaga Highway; PJ Patterson Highway; Constant Spring Road, St. Andrew; Mandela Highway, St. Catherine; Duncans Bypass, Trelawny; Howard Cooke Blvd, St James; Bustamante Highway, Clarendon; and Spur Tree, Manchester.

2. AVOID RISKY BEHAVIORS

Consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs also impairs driving and increases the risk of losing control of the vehicle. A Drunk driving report, produced by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, shows that a driver impaired by alcohol is 17 times more likely to have an accident than a sober person. This is because alcohol affects vision, reflexes and judgment.

Distracted driving, such as texting on a cell phone, also puts you at risk of an accident. If possible, use Bluetooth technology if you need to talk on your phone.

3. BE CAREFUL OF CHILDREN

The children will be on vacation and will probably play outside. Be on the lookout for children crossing, or even playing in the road. Also pay close attention to children accompanying you in your vehicle. Use the child lock feature on the rear doors to prevent them from opening while driving and make sure they use a car seat or booster seat, depending on their age and size. Older children should be in the back seat and wear a seat belt. Never leave children alone in the vehicle, even for a short time.

4. REDUCE THE RISK OF DRIVER FATIGUE

Long road trips can cause fatigue. Make sure you get six to eight hours of sleep before a trip. Also be aware of the side effects of any medications you are taking, as some cause drowsiness. Stay alert by taking frequent breaks and rehydrating. If you feel sleepy, go to a well-lit public place and take a nap. Don’t be tempted to keep driving because you’re close to home.

“Drowsy driving affects your ability to pay attention and impacts response time when you need to brake hard. Additionally, you run the risk of falling asleep, thereby endangering your life and that of other road users, which has legal implications if people are injured or die as a result of a collision,” warned Holness.

5. PROTECT YOURSELF FROM GLARE

Glare from the sun or the headlights of an oncoming vehicle at night can impair your vision, affecting your ability to correctly determine the distance between you and another motorist. When this happens, reduce speed to reduce the risk of a collision. Glare can be made worse by a dirty windshield. Check that your windshield wipers are in good working order and that enough washer fluid is available to clean your windshield when it becomes necessary.

By day, use your vehicle’s visors to protect your eyes from direct glare by positioning them on the front windshield or side window. A pair of sunglasses can also help deal with this problem. Sunglasses should not be worn at night to protect against headlight glare.

At night, bright headlights, which have effects similar to glare from the sun, can impair vision. If an oncoming vehicle with bright headlights is approaching you, avoid looking directly at the lights. Instead, gaze slightly into the distance while remaining focused on the road.

Have fun this summer while making road safety a priority, so you don’t become a statistic.

editorial@gleanerjm.com


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