More calls for driver education to be taught in secondary schools

Executive director of the National Road Safety Counci l, Paula Fletcher is continuing the push for driver education to be included in secondary school curricula.

According to Fletcher, this could result in benefits to the economy by reducing the number of road crashes, which would lead to a reduction in the burden on hospitals and the public purse.

“Driving is a key activity in our daily lives and, therefore, it suits us to learn the skill early in order to preserve life and limb,” argued Fletcher.

“Can you imagine if you have kids who are in fourth and fifth form who are learning the road code as part of one of the activities or courses that they have to do? This would enable them to have the benefit of being responsible in an environment with other road users from early,” added Fletcher.

Dael Whylie, manager at Jamaica Automobile Association, (JAA), which operates a driving academy, is in full support of Fletcher’s call.

“Once a student reaches the legal age to acquire a provisional licence, The JAA will assist them with the acquisition of the licence and sign them up to have a learner-driver experience with us. The JAA is also looking to include driving education as part of the curricula in certain high schools,” said Whylie.

In the meantime Raymon Treasure, principal of York Castle High School in Brown’s Town, St Ann, has also echoed the call for mandatory driver education in secondary schools.

His institution implemented a driver education programme during the 2013/2014 academic year, starting with lower-school students and, in 2015, expanded it to the school’s sixth formers.

Treasure said a proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Education and the school received funding through the Career Advancement Programme to implement the programme.

“Teachers made their cars available and paid instructors were brought in to teach the students. All sixth formers were asked to get their learner’s licence and they were each provided with a learner manual. Some of the students were able to get their licenses through the programme,” said Treasure.

When funding for the driving programme was no longer available, they continued by establishing a Driver’s Education Club.

“Students who were interested in driving would then become a part of the club. We have a massive field so we set up the cones for them to practise; and teachers still made their cars available for use,” added Treasure.

The programme at York Castle High also includes basic motor vehicle maintenance, though the programme is now on hold because of the pandemic.

The Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining reported that Jamaica recorded more than 350 road crashes last year, with 432 people losing their lives on the nation’s streets.

Last week the unit reported that up to the the end of May, 196 persons had been killed in traffic crashes this year.

Statistics from the unit also highlighted that males account for the majority of road fatalities. Of the 196 road users to lose their lives so far this year, 86 per cent (168) were males and 14 per cent (28) were females.

Vulnerable road users, including motorcyclists, pedestrians and pillion riders, accounted for 65 per cent of fatalities.

A 2017 study of road injury expenses by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the JN Foundation, found that it costs approximately $2.6 billion per year to treat injuries related to crashes and collisions.

In addition to the financial implications for the health-care system, research has shown that repairs to infrastructural damage caused by road crashes cost the Government millions of dollars, annually.

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