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2010 - Deaf drivers get much-awaited green light for road use

Published:Sunday | January 9, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Mika Hakkinen

Laranzo Dacres, Sunday Gleaner Writer

2010 saw a change in legislation which now permits the hearing-impaired to apply for a driver's licence, once they present an audiologist's certificate confirming their level of hearing.

The amendment to the Road Traffic Act on June 11 last year has resulted in the removal of a clause which requires hearing-impaired drivers to install a flashing light in their vehicles to alert them to external vehicular sounds.

Gloria Goffe, executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA) had argued that the device was obsolete and, therefore, unavailable locally.

"Countries that allow deaf persons to drive were not using them anymore," she noted in an interview last year.

Goffe said advocacy for the amendment to the Road Traffic Act to allow persons who are hearing impaired to drive on the island's roadways began in the 1980s, but it was in 2005 that the first amendment took place to allow for conditional driving, using the device.

Prior to that, however, a number of hearing-impaired persons drove in Jamaica, using US driver's licences.

In light of the latest amendment to the legislation, Government had made good on its promise to provide training in basic sign language to personnel employed to the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), as well as the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), in order to facilitate those drivers.

In his response to the change in legislation, Chief Inspector at the ITA, Clive McDonald, told Automotives that the ITA was in the process of revamping its testing procedures to accommodate hearing-impaired drivers. However, he noted that those who would be doing the test for their driver's licence should be accompanied by an interpreter and to take along an audiologist's certificate.

  • Former F1 driver puts brakes on drunk driving

Mika Hakkinen, former two-time Formula One champion, made a 'pit stop' in Jamaica last October to spread a sobering message: 'Don't drink and drive'.

The Diageo-hosted occasion saw the Finland-born 'speedster' making a number of public appearances on the island to rev up support for the alcohol company's 'drink responsibly' campaign.

Hakkinen is the Responsible Drinking Ambassador for the Johnnie Walker campaign - Join the Pact - which encourages persons to commit never to drink and drive. Worldwide, more than 750,000 persons have joined the campaign by simply logging on to and signing up.

"It's really about making it [the message] a part of people's consciousness, and for the past four years Diageo has been spreading this message," said Marguerite Cremin, head of corporate relations manager at Red Stripe, Diageo's local subsidiary.

"I am happy to be in Jamaica," said Hakkinen, who has been the Responsible Drinking Ambassador for Johnnie Walker since 2006.

"It's good to see how very keen Jamaicans are to be part of the campaign ... it can save lives," he said.

The 'Join the Pact' campaign was launched in 2008 and has already been established in Paraguay, Venezuela, Mexico, United States of America, Dominican Republic, Spain, Hungary, United Arab Emirates, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil and Uruguay.

- B.B.