Don’t you think it is time for the government to decide to bring Dominica‘s driving laws up to international standards? I mean, the politicians travel overseas and know that driving standards, in the UK for instance ,are well documented and every one adheres to the rules. Where do I begin? For a start, to pass the theory test, it is mandatory that one learns the HIGHWAY CODE inside out. In there you will learn all road markings, and traffic signs as well as other general road usage, such as speed limits, for different types of roads and whether the road is a motor way, single carriage road or passes through an urban dwelling area. The theory test also has a hazard perception component that is a computer based test in which you are simulate driving on various roads and click every time you are aware that a potential hazard appears.
The practical test is no shorter that 40 minutes driving and begins with reading a registration plate from 20 metres away, followed by two or three questions on the general knowledge of a vehicle and the testing of various manoeuvres such as: parking in a parking bay, a turn in the road, or reversing round a corner and the obligatory EMERGENCY STOP.
All learning to drive must be supervised by an ACCREDITED DRIVING INSTRUCTOR who himself has been rigorously trained and tested to the approved standard. It is his duty to ensure that you understand ALL driving matters before he recommends that you sit the test.
Now, I have been reading almost every other week of a terrible accident in Dominica on this online newspaper, and I believe that something must be done to save lives, and it MUST BE DONE NOW.
On the question of speed limits, here in the UK, the speed limit on the motorway is 70 miles-an- hour, in towns and villages it is 30 miles-an-hour. And where advised 20 miles-an -our…that is standard. The use of road signs is also extremely useful. Motorist should be advised of an upcoming bend or double bend well in advance of approaching the hazard. The road will also have marking telling the driver to slow down and stay in his lane.
A certified driver in the UK, is trained to constantly read all road signs above, on the side, and on the road. And will also consider the condition of the road it self, whether it is wet or has potholes or gravel on it that could affect his stopping time.
I have read of accidents in Dominica, where a driver pulling out from a side road is hit by an oncoming vehicle. This could be avoided if both drivers are driving with CARE AND ATTENTION. If the road on which you are joining is a busy one, there will usually be two or more indications that the main road is a busy and one and potential hazard. You will usually see a stop sign, and double white lines crossing the road. Especially if the corner is what you call BLIND CORNER where you cannot see what is travelling in your direction as you approach the corner. Before you pull out, make sure that the road is clear,or make sure that your joining the road will not slow down another driver. And when I say make sure, look, and look again before you pull out. A vehicle travelling at 30 miles-an-hour at a hundred feet away might seem far off, but it will only take him/her a few seconds to be upon you.
Before I conclude, I just want to touch on the wearing of SEAT BELTS AND CRASH HELMETS for motor cyclists. It might not seem obvious to you,but trust me they can be life savers. Use them!!! Make sure that your car is in a road worthy condition, before your drive. All cars over three years old, in the United Kingdom have to undergo a mandatory Ministry of Transportation (MOT) service examination to check basic parts and tyres, window wipers, fan belts, brakes, foot and hand breaks, indicator, break and head lamps and exhaust emissions etc.,and if anything is found to be amiss, you will not be able to renew your road tax. AND YOU MUST HAVE THIRD PARTY VEHICLE INSURANCE.
I know that Dominica has unique challenges when it comes to driving on our crowded and steep, narrow winding roads, but if we begin to re-educate our drivers and teach the young ones motoring skills in aright and proper way, we can begin to see some improvement and enjoy safer road journeys.
And finally, PLEASE DON’T USE ANY MIND-ALTERING SUBSTANCES or drive when tired. The mind works much better when it is rested and it is in its natural state.