Aggie Krasnolucka, Programmes Director at the London-based FIA Foundation, says Jamaica’s National Helmet Wearing Coalition (NHWC) has the potential to be as successful as similar initiatives established around the world, including in Vietnam. Among other things, the work of the Coalition in Vietnam has contributed to the passage of a mandatory helmet law in the country which has saved thousands of lives.

Speaking after the launch and inaugural meeting of the NHWC in Jamaica, the FIA Programmes Director said Jamaica’s Coalition has the capacity to attain similar achievements, noting that each member brings to the table their own skills, knowledge and experience on motorcycle issues and safety.

“Vietnam is a success case but the helmet safety work in Vietnam has been going on for over a decade. Over 15,000 lives and $3.5 billion have been saved, but it takes time. I am very hopeful that we will see similar improvements here in Jamaica. There are people here who have fantastic skills and they’re very well prepared, ambitious and quite enthusiastic about this work,” she said.

The National Helmet Wearing Coalition in Jamaica is public-private partnership comprising the JN Foundation, which is coordinating the project, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), government, as well as the police, transportation associations, advocacy groups, academia, parish development committees and international organisations. The initiative is being funded by the FIA Foundation- the charity arm of the world governing body for motorsports- and is targeted at raising awareness about motorcycle helmet safety, and promoting the use of certified helmets through regulation and behaviour change.

At the Coalition’s first meeting, members discussed potential activities in line with the action plan frameworks and models. Ms Krasnolucka, said she was impressed by the discussion, but hastened to advise that the success of the project in Jamaica will require concerted effort and input from various levels, including government.

“We need to see the policymakers playing their part, creating policies that are fit for the context and really support the change that we want to see. We want to see the private sector stepping forward and doing their part in supporting activities that will be taking place as part of the action plan of the Coalition,” she said.  “We need to see civil society being proactive, advocating for change; we need media to do their bit to promote good behaviour; and most of all, we need motorcycle riders to be involved in this process,” she stressed.

­Omar Wright, Lead for Environment and Community Development Programmes at JN Foundation, outlined the roles and responsibilities of the Coalition during the inaugural meeting. He said members will be expected to attend at least four meetings each year and they may also be called upon to work in one or multiple working groups aligned to the objectives of the Coalition. He also called for members to take the initiative to identify new opportunities and partners that can support the activities and goals of the Coalition.

“We do not have all the information and happenings at the local level, and we will depend on our members to share information about what sort of tactics might work for the population that we are trying to reach,” he said. “We will also call upon members to share their views, their ideas, their suggestions, because we know that together we can create the solutions that we are seeking to bring about,” he added.

Project Manager for Road Safety and Road User Education at JN Foundation, Sydoney Preddie, added that the ultimate priority of the Coalition will be to help reduce the number of motorcyclists experiencing fatal or severe injuries from a collision. Currently, anecdotal data shows that in 80 per cent of collisions involving motorcyclists, bikers and their pillions either die or are severely injured because they were not wearing a helmet.

“We want to see more certified helmets on heads. We want to at least bring down that 80 per cent and so we look forward to working together to achieve that. This project is about promoting helmet safety and highlighting the standards that are in place,” she said.

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