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The present norms and procedures to issue driver’s licences in Jamaica requires a certain level of literacy; applicants must be able to read and write. This excludes a large number of illiterate Jamaicans, who may otherwise be good at driving. They may also be the ones without any other source of income and the driver’s licence could pave the way to their ability to earn and support their families. Taking this into consideration, the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) is now working on relaxing some of the requirements so that those previously denied are made eligible for obtaining their licence. Their driving skills will still be tested to ensure they are not found lacking in that aspect.
The Toss Up Between Safer Roads and Withholding a Privilege
The challenge before the ITA and the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), would be to make changes that would make those applying for driving licenses but not educated enough, to go through the Road Code and pass the test. On a broader scope, the objective behind fixing some of these strict norms is helping citizens to realize the importance of receiving basic education. That is a national cause, to have as many literate people in the country as possible. However, the authorities now think that this may keep a section of the society, already underprivileged, away from the mainstream. The current exercise is aimed at correcting this imbalance. There is great concern about road safety if drivers do not have a basic understanding of the road code or the ability to read road signs. However, if someone is adept at driving a motorcycle or a car, should he or she be deprived of the privilege of a driver’s licence on the premise that they cannot read or write?
Cracking the Road Code – How to Make it Simpler?
The two designated authorities, the ITA and NRSC have now roped in a third, Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL) to collectively find a solution to this issue. The simplest way being, at the time of filling in the application for the licence, if the candidate mentions that his or her literacy levels are inadequate to meet the prescribed standards, the agency will put them through an alternate testing process. This will test their practical driving skills while evaluating their competency at learning the road signs and the rules while driving. The new Road Traffic Act will have to be amended to include these modifications in the testing process.