SAIPAN Garment Manufacturer’s

SAIPAN — A number of recent traffic accidents involving pedestrians has the Saipan Garment Manufacturer’s Association (SGMA) pleading with the public to drive safely — and “friendly” — on Saipan’s busy, and usually fast, roadways.
Two garment workers were struck by automobiles last week in Garapan, and two more were hit last weekend along Middle Road. One of the weekend victims is in a coma at the Commonwealth Health Center. “This is a serious and tragic situation,” said SGMA Acting Chairman Richard Pierce. “It’s difficult, and very sad, to contact the parents of these injured people and tell them their son or daughter was in an accident… an accident that could have been prevented.”
Pierce went on to say that it’s everyone’s job to be careful. “We are training our employees to practice safe pedestrian habits, but that’s only part of the solution. Saipan drivers must also take responsibility by slowing down and being safe, alert, friendly drivers. This isn’t just for the sake of garment workers. Our local citizens, our children walk along these busy roads, too,” he pointed out.
According to Pierce, the private sector has done a lot to improve the situation. The funding for the lighted crosswalks throughout the island was provided by a number of individual garment factories and tourism businesses at a cost of $18,000 each, but they haven’t been properly maintained by the government. These crosswalks are located in proximity of garment factories and high traffic tourist areas, including Garapan, Gualo Rai, Susupe and San Antonio.
“It’s time for the government to step in and make safety a priority,” says Pierce. “Most of the privately-funded crosswalks have broken down, but the government hasn’t repaired them. Why is this?” he questioned. “Meanwhile, our guest workers, residents, and schoolchildren are placed at increased risk by simply walking down our streets.”
The Saipan Garment Manufacturer’s Association represents 32 of the islands’ 34 garment factories. Employing nearly 15,000 people, including 2,400 local residents, garment manufacturing is a driving economic force in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.