LETTER OF THE DAY - Get radical on roads
THE EDITOR, Sir: Response to The Gleaner editorial titled 'Death on the roads', published on Saturday, September 6, 2014.
If starting a business in Jamaica were as easy as acquiring a driver's licence, or having a motor vehicle passed fit, Jamaica would be bubbling with a plethora of entrepreneurs, unemployment would be in single digits, and growth would be positive.
Instead, what we get is a road of myriad incompetent drivers, who are illiterate of the road code, and some illiterate in general; not to mention defective vehicles.
Therefore, what should be called into question is not the leadership of the JCF Traffic Division and the potency of road-safety lobbies, but rather the integrity of the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), which operates under the transport ministry, with responsibility for the issuing of driver's licences and the certification of motor vehicles for fitness.
The ITA must not neglect its key role of keeping citizens and visitors safe by ensuring that both driver and vehicle are roadworthy.
Effective controls must be put in place to stem corrupt practices, and those found guilty should be held culpable for the death, injury and damage to property.
There needs to be a change in how persons acquire a licence to operate a motor vehicle on public roads in Jamaica. It should be mandatory that a driver's licence applicant hold a learner's licence for a minimum of one year. A learner's licence should not be issued until the person has shown that he/she has the ability to read and write beyond the primary level, is able to correctly interpret signs and signals, and is able to reason and make smart decisions.
Prior to being assessed for the licence, the applicant must complete a stipulated number of hours in the classroom where he/she has mastery of the road code. Therefore, any applicant visiting the examination depot must not only have proof of payment of the licence fee but also a certificate from a licensed driving school as proof of his/her competencies, qualification and readiness to undergo a final assessment for a driver's licence.
In addition to this, an individual desirous of operating a public passenger vehicle must be in possession of a driver's licence for at least five years, must not have committed any traffic violations for the past 12 months, and should have a clean police record. A thorough background check should be conducted in addition to the individual undergoing a psychiatric evaluation to assess his mental stability.
Those satisfying these requirements should undergo a stipulated number of hours in the classroom where, upon completion, they would become certified operators of public passenger vehicles. This certification should be renewed every five years.
The ITA should contract private garages that are certified against international best practices, and certified by the ITA as official examiners, to inspect motor vehicles and pass them fit. This would reduce the daily congestion at the examination depot and the high quantity of work on examiners that oftentimes result in despicable quality.
It will not nullify the issue of corruption entirely; however, it will guarantee roadworthy motor vehicles, thereby eliminating this as a factor for traffic accidents.
BASIL M. HARRIOTT
Old Harbour, St Catherine