Navigating the Roads Safely this Festive Season

December 21, 2023 by jngijamaica

The festive season is usually a joyous occasion for many persons, but it is also a time when road crashes often spike due to heightened travel activities and increased alcohol consumption.

Each year, statistics paint a grim picture of road crashes during Christmas, which underscores the critical need for caution on the roads.

According to data from the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Christmas Day is the deadliest holiday in Jamaica. A total of 41 road deaths were recorded on Christmas Day over the last two decades. In December 2021, four fatalities occurred on Christmas Day and five on Boxing Day.

Lynford Reece, Senior Manager, Distribution and Marketing at JN General Insurance (JNGI), and road safety advocate, emphasises the importance of prioritising road safety during this time of the year.

“Festive celebrations often involve alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, some persons make ill-advised decisions to drive while under the influence, which leads to impaired judgment that not only compromises their own safety, but also endangers the lives of others on the road,” said Mr Reece.

“The effects of alcohol on cognitive functions are extensively documented. When individuals choose to drive under the influence their judgement becomes impaired, which significantly increases the likelihood of crashes, due to reduced alertness and slower reaction time,” he added.

According to a report jointly produced by the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, a driver under the influence of alcohol is 17 times more likely to be involved in a crash compared to an individual who is sober.

Mr Reece further highlighted that in addition to alcohol impairment, crashes during the festive season are also influenced by fatigue and elevated stress levels.

“Sometimes drivers become exhausted from social activities, long hours on the road or inadequate rest.  When this happens, they become less alert, and it affects their overall cognitive function. Similarly, elevated stress levels can also affect a driver’s concentration, which can lead to road crashes.”

He highlighted that road crashes not only lead to fatalities but also long-term injuries and can result in physical, emotional and economic effect on victims.

“Road crashes impose substantial economic burdens on individuals The costs include medical expenses, property damage, legal fees, and lost productivity. Additionally, families may face financial strain due to the loss of income if a breadwinner is injured or killed in a crash.”

The effects of long-term injuries from a motor vehicle crash are relatable to TrudyAnn Brooks. In 2020, she and other passengers sustained serious injuries when the driver of the car they were travelling in lost control of the car which ran off the road into a ditch.   The car caught fire just as rescuers pulled them from the wreckage.

“I had a fractured femur, and I was in the hospital for two weeks,” she said adding that the pins used in her surgery cost her nearly $100,000.

Ms Brooks pointed out that the injuries still affect her.

“From time to time, I will feel pain [and] cramps.  If I stand too long, my feet will hurt sometimes.”

She said that the pain worsens whenever the time is cold, but she tries to alleviate the discomfort by wearing warm clothing.

Noting that traffic congestion is also a common occurrence during the holidays, Mr Reece urges responsible use of the road.

“Exercise patience, maintain a safe following distance, and avoid aggressive driving behaviours. Staying calm and collected contributes to a safer road,” he advised.

JNGI has consistently championed road safety initiatives over the years. The company organised a road safety webinar last year, erected crash hotspot warning signs at high-risk locations across the island to alert motorists. The signs form a central part of its “Just Slow Down” campaign targeted at raising road safety awareness among motorists.