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Simulator to help drivers in St Mary

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMOrantes Moore
A student at Oracabessa High School in St Mary tests the virtual reality driving simulator donated by the Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica, Niu Qingbao (standing).
From left: Sheldon Kidd; Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica Niu Qingbao; and the member of parliament for Western St Mary, Robert Montague, at a ceremony to hand over a driving simulator to the principal of Oracabessa High School, Paul Lofters.

Drivers and pedestrians in St Mary can look forward to a reduction in motor vehicle accidents in the coming years, thanks to a pioneering gesture by the Chinese government's highest-ranking local representative.

In an attempt to increase road safety standards among young drivers in the parish, last week, the Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica, Niu Qingbao, donated a pair of virtual-reality driving simulators to Oracabessa High School and Tacky High School.

Speaking after a handover ceremony at Oracabessa High, the ambassador said the simulators, which utilise real car components such as gear sticks, clutch, and brake pedals, were designed to help learners gain additional knowledge and confidence.


Good idea


He told Rural Xpress: "I made this donation because I think it's a good idea to help high-school students to learn to drive before they actually hit the road. [Member of parliament for Western St Mary Robert] Montague came to me and said: 'If you want to do this, I can connect you with the right schools,' so I accepted and offered my assistance. I'm not sure if it will make a difference to all of the students, but even if one or a few learn how to drive on this machine, that will be a big plus for everyone."

Montague, who launched a learner-driver scheme at Tacky High School back in 2014, said the Chinese ambassador's gift would help diminish the number of fatal car accidents in the area.

The security minister explained: "We are losing a lot of our people on the roads, and we have noticed that a lot of taxi drivers graduated from either Tacky High or Oracabessa High. Many of them were supported by the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education, and so it is challenging for them to pay for driving lessons.

"But [the simulator] assists those students who want a job as a professional driver, and it assists those who can drive or have vehicles at home and want to learn more, without being on the road, so it increases driver safety and reduces the carnage on our streets.

"By coincidence, on the same day I was researching this issue, I had a meeting with the Chinese ambassador, and he said he would donate two [simulators], which is really great because I'm of the view that whether from high school or college, every Jamaican should have some knowledge of driving. Even if you don't have a licence, you should still know the road code."

Oracabessa High's principal, Paul Lofters, added: "This donation will be of great benefit to all our students, but especially the young boys. They have so much interest in driving and upon leaving school, a number of them do become members of the transport sector, so the use of the simulator machine will provide them with the necessary, initial, key skills to deal with real driving situations."