Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
A very good afternoon to you, Your Royal Highness, and to you my Distinguished Guests.
It is both a tremendous honour and a delight for Lady Allen and me to host Your Royal Highness on your second visit to Jamaica. We are pleased that the Most Honourable Prime Minister leads this small group of Distinguished Guests at this Luncheon in honour of Prince Michael of Kent. You share with us the joy of welcoming the Prince, one of the most interesting members of the Royal Family. Sir, as a successful entrepreneur whose business has international scope, an accomplished sportsman, a philanthropist and Royal Patron of charitable and several worthy other causes, Your Royal Highness’ life journey till now could provide the script for a very good movie.
Prince Michael, it is fitting that as the Royal Patron for the Commission for Global Road Safety and Patron of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), your visit is in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the National Road Safety Council. It is even more so, because as a competitive rally driver you are fully acquainted with the attraction of speed, but also of its potential deadly consequences. I am told, Your Highness, that as champion driver of the 1992 vintage cars race, you coaxed “Mother Gun”, a 1926 Bentley, to well in excess of one hundred miles per hour!
Your Royal Highness is also accustomed to speed on ice, having represented the United Kingdom in international bobsled competitions. You might therefore have followed with some interest the escapades of the Jamaican Bobsled Team which stole the show, but not the medals, in the Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988.
Jamaica’s love for speed not only produced the Bobsled Team, but has defined our country as the Speed Capital of the World, with the highest per capita haul of Gold Medals from the 2012 London Olympics. On the other hand, speed on our roads has caused numerous fatal accidents and a major objective of the NRSC is to have our drivers internalize safe driving habits, including respecting speed limits, to reduce the number and fatality of collisions on our roads. Commendably, their sustained efforts have seen a reduction from 444 deaths in 1991 to 256 last year. The NRCS scored a major success as its 2012 target was for less than 300 road fatalities. At 256 deaths, we recognized that we still had far to go, but yet we could celebrate going below the 300 mark.
For this year and till 2016, the NRSC has set a target of less than 240 road fatalities. Regrettably, we have experienced about 70 deaths since January, many caused by speeding. The public relations campaign will be ramped up.
A critical concern is the fact that by far the largest number of fatalities is among pedestrians. One-third of those killed on our roads in 2011 were pedestrians. I know that the NRSC is focusing on how best to combat this through intensive public education and I would encourage the Council to give priority to this for the 2013-2016 period. We feel so strongly about this that Lady Allen and I are committing to including NRSC road safety tips for pedestrians especially, in our interaction with Jamaicans at all levels, including through the “I Believe” Initiative.
Your Royal Highness, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the NRCS, I congratulate the succeeding Chairpersons- our former and current Prime Ministers, Vice Chairman- Dr. Lucien Jones, Executive Director- Mrs. Paula Fletcher and her team, as well as the many sponsors and partners who have collaborated with the NRCS to make our roads safer. I anticipate your continuing success as you work to achieve your objectives for our people.