Sun | May 19, 2019

Road-safety lobby delivers sober message at rum festival

Published:Friday | March 15, 2019 | 12:06 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
In support of road safety, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Energy Minister Fayval Williams pose for a photo opportunity at Jamaica Rum Festival, Hope Gardens, St Andrew, on Tuesday.
In support of road safety, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Energy Minister Fayval Williams pose for a photo opportunity at Jamaica Rum Festival, Hope Gardens, St Andrew, on Tuesday.

The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) was given the perfect platform to drive home the message of responsible drinking to thousands of patrons in attendance at last weekend’s Jamaica Rum Festival at Hope Gardens in St Andrew.

At the inaugural staging of the two-day event, which was hosted by Appleton Estate, in partnership with the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Enhancement Fund, executive director of the Road Safety Council, Paula Fletcher, reiterated messages against the practice of drinking and driving, which she said has become acceptable to many.

SAVING LIVES

“We have a culture in Jamaica where we think it is OK to drink and drive. It is important that we are present here, where people are indulging, to drive home the message of being safe on the roads through best practices, essentially, so we can save lives,” Fletcher said at the festival, which was attended by more than 3,000 patrons each day.

Last year, almost 383 persons were killed in road crashes. According to the Police Traffic Division, the majority of these deadly crashes occurred on a Sunday, leaving Fletcher to assume that “these crashes happened after people had left festivities, and so it is important for us to be where festivities are to further educate on ways individuals can protect themselves”.

The warning to patrons was part of the NRSC’s Below 300 campaign, which is geared towards significantly reducing road fatalities below 300 every year. The Below 300 campaign implores drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, passengers and pedal cyclists to practise safer road habits to preserve lives.

Kenute Hare, director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport, has projected that there may be about 330 crash fatalities in Jamaica this year.

Patrons were encouraged to ensure that they eat before consuming alcohol, drink water between cups of liquor, have fun, and plan a safe way to return home.

Director of the Rum Festival, Valon Thorpe, said that he is committed to continue engaging the Road Safety Unit in helping to “promote the message of safely consuming alcohol and exercise due safety measures when driving”.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com