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Story Highlights

  • A UWI study showed that “many…of our public passenger drivers (for example) have never sat an efficient and independent driving test.”
  • HEART Trust/NTA be approached to take on the responsibility of developing national standards for driver education.
  • The Minister also underscored the need to begin the teaching of road safety skills at the early childhood level.

Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, is proposing that the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing solicit the HEART Trust/National Training Agency’s (NTA) assistance in developing national standards for driver education, as part of efforts to reduce accidents and fatalities on the nation’s roads.

Speaking at Friday’s (September 27) launch of the Transport Ministry’s three-month islandwide road safety campaign tour at the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre in St. Andrew, Rev. Thwaites stressed the importance of this pursuit, contending that “a lot of our drivers still buy their licenses.”

He said a University of the West Indies (UWI) study showed that “many…of our public passenger drivers (for example) have never sat an efficient and independent driving test.”

While noting that the system seems to have improved, the Minister lamented that “it still is open for rampant corruption, and this explains some of the carnage on our roads.”

“I would (therefore)…propose… that the HEART Trust/NTA be approached to take on the responsibility of developing national standards for driver education and be given the responsibility, not solely, but in conjunction with the private sector, for the training of drivers and for the introduction of driver training…as part of the curriculum for Grades 11 and onwards, in the education system,” Rev. Thwaites said.

The Minister also underscored the need to begin the teaching of road safety skills at the early childhood level. Noting the approximately 2,600 early childhood institutions islandwide, he stressed the importance of children being taught the habits and practices of road safety, “on a systematic basis”, at the earliest stage since, “this is where habits are formed most easily.”

“The Ministry of Education is open to the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Transport Authority, and National Road Safety Council for the development and imposition of appropriate curricula which will assist for this to happen,” he assured.

Rev. Thwaites also called for an “inter-ministerial effort” to improve the standard of conduct and efficiency at bus parks islandwide, particularly in relation to student commuters. He said the assistance of the police is needed, in this regard, and gave the Ministry’s undertaking to assign social workers, “in order that we may have proper concourse through and proper deportment where students gather in their search and in their wait for public transportation.”

He called the present situation unacceptable noting that there is too much loitering and too little discipline in places like the Half Way Tree Bus Park.

In his remarks, Minister without Portfolio, Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, assured that the Ministry is “mindful” of some of the standards and measures being advocated, and have been acting on several of them through the Transport Authority (TA).  These, he informed, include commencing a programme of driver re-certification.

“But indeed…no matter how many people we train, no matter how many training sessions we have, unless the culture of the people, the drivers, change we will never be able to reverse this worrying trend (of traffic breaches),” Dr. Guy said

The safety campaign, being executed under the theme: Walk, Ride and Drive for Life”, kicks off in Kingston today (September 28), and will see four road shows being held across the island featuring performances and appearances by several entertainment and media personalities. These include: Voicemail; Tanya Stephens; Roy Rayon; and Jennifer ‘Jenni Jenni’ Small. The campaign culminates with the final road show in Mandeville, Manchester on December 14.

Several stakeholders have partnered with the Ministry to stage the series. They include: the Road Maintenance Fund (RMF), National Road Safety Council, Jamaica Urban Transit Company, and WISYNCO (through their product WATA). Other participating stakeholders include: the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Transport Authority, and Island Traffic Authority (ITA).