Jamaica Gleaner / In a recent article published in The Gleaner , the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) expressed concern about the increasing number of road fatalities involving motorcyclists. The group reinforced its suggestion by highlighting the fact that since 2015, motorcyclists have overtaken pedestrians as the leading victims of road crashes.
Records have also shown that motorcyclists now account for 31 per cent of road users killed in motor vehicle crashes since the start of the year.
Subsequently, the NRSC, in a meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, suggested that the government raise importation tax on motorcycles. This would cause the prices of bikes to enter into a more expensive bracket, which the group believes will discourage persons from purchasing them in such high quantities, leading to fewer accidents.
This sparked discontent with Island Bikers Association. While equally concerned with road fatalities, the group disagrees with the approach of the NRSC. “We believe that there is an issue, however the solution is not to make motorcycles less affordance for the average persons.
We first need to implement the existing law. There are a lot of persons out there riding without the proper safety gear and are not being penalised by the police,” said Lisanne Pessoa, the group’s spokesperson.
Sharing a similar sentiment was owner of Superior Auto Parts, Derrick Johnson, whose company, along with selling car parts also sells the popular Zhujaing and Yeng Yeng motorbikes.
“We have to find a way to teach the youth how to ride responsibly. Many of them are not wearing protective gear and many of them are on their phones while riding, but the answer can’t be to raise taxes,” said Johnson.
Regardless of the solution, the fatality figures have now caused concerns in both the public and private sectors. Corporate brand, Red Stripe, as part of its Drink Right Initiative, had a themed event in July for motorcyclists dubbed Bikers Roll Out. The event was aimed at encouraging riders to play a more active role in their safety and that of others.
This is one of the initiatives that Island Bikers Association believes can curb fatality figures. “We want all the relevant persons to sit down and talk first, not just one group, then we can decide effective measures to go forward. For example, we need to have more workshop sessions throughout the 14 parishes, where persons are taught how to ride safely and how to properly wear protective gear. Also if persons want to do stunts, there is a proper way to go about it that does not include doing it on the road,” said Pessoa.
Since then, the group was able to meet with the NRSC where they went about discussing their different perspectives in an amicable manner. “Our meeting with the NRSC was very productive, ultimately we both want the same things, which is to reduce road fatalities. We have put several things on the table and we will be developing them through consistent dialogue,” said Richard Weir, president of Island Bikers Association
While Weir was tight lipped on the specifics of the meeting, he did disclose that they are looking into the feasibility of making license plates bigger as well as putting plates on helmets.
The group also used the meeting to express their concerns on the ramifications of increasing the cost of motorcycles. “These bikes have created so many bearer jobs for young men who would have normally been unemployed. Making these bikes more expensive cannot be a solution, in a country that is challenged with job opportunities,” said Pessoa.
In addition they also acknowledged the fact that frequent motorcycle accidents are burdening the coffers of the government along with the production in the country. “When someone crashes on a motorcycle and has to go to the hospital, where he might spend days in a ward, there is a fee attached to that. We also have to be aware of the fact this person will be out of the workforce for the duration of his injury, thus not being able to contribute financially to his family,” she added.
Going forward both the NRSC and Island Bikers Association have pledged to have more dialogue and invite more stakeholders to their meetings to implement practical solutions to the problem.