THAT the road death figure for the year just ended was 96 is at least cause for cautious optimism. This is as it reflects a ray of sunshine in a year in which there have been so many gloomy memories. With 25 fewer road fatalities than experienced in the previous year, this turned out to be the lowest such record in 63 years, a similar figure having been recorded in 1957.
Police authority figures have understandably been using this improvement in the numbers to drive home a series of critical points. “This is an astonishing achievement,” said Traffic Branch Senior Supt Wayne Mystar. He was, at one and the same time, giving credit to the duties performed by his officers, while also acknowledging the co-operation of members the public.
Awareness campaigns mounted by civil society organisation Arrive Alive, the insurance industry and the other advocates of safe driving practices have played some role in this notable development. Observance of relevant rules and regulations regarding use of the nation’s roads is one of those areas of behaviour seen in some quarters as a public health issue. Officers dedicated to road traffic safety, such as road safety co-ordinator Sgt Brent Batson, will find encouragement to “work assiduously in 2021 to help reduce that road fatality figure even further”. Recognised now as a fixture in the campaign for better, more responsible and respectful road usage by all, Sgt Batson would feel heartened by the improvement reflected in these numbers.
That he has remained in this specialised role and function for a number of years now is its own good-news tale in an area of activity in which behaviour and attitudinal change has literal life-and-death implications.
But even where the 2020 figures were seen to have been brought commendably down, there continued to be those instances in which recklessness on the roads unnecessarily claimed lives.
In some cases, such tragedies brought grief and sadness to family networks and entire communities in the process.
Determined to do what was necessary to keep the lid on this element of our practices, Senior Supt Mystar, Sgt Batson and their teams put even greater effort into the end-of-year surveillance. Between Old Year’s Day 2020 and New Year’s Day 2021, some 269 speeding tickets were issued by those teams of officers conducting road safety duty across the country. The newly introduced imposition of demerit points for assorted road traffic violations also contributed to the apparent increases in sensible and safer road usage by motorists. Other initiatives to curb such ingrained practices as the running of red lights will also make their contributions in this regard.
What we have before us now is an expanding regime of collaboration which promotes the development of a culture of safe driving practices. In such a context, the police traffic authorities are encouraged to “expand the roadside education campaign” aimed at counselling drivers about ways to avoid collisions, associated injuries and worse.
Such an environment must lead to an outcome in which improved road safety is more than just wishful thinking.