Driver’s education out

A mandatory driver’s education programme in Cayman Islands public schools will not be in place at the start of the upcoming school year.

Alden McLaughlin

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said last week that he could not put a date on when the programme might start.

“It’s a far more difficult exercise than you might think,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

He announced his intention to put driver’s education into the public school curriculum at the start of this year, following the deaths of an 18-year-old and 19-year-old in a single car crash on West Bay Rd.

The wreck occurred just a few days before Christmas.

But he said some practical problems may prevent the programme from being implemented as first envisioned.

“There are all the challenges of trying to fit a subject into an already overloaded curriculum,” he said. “I believe it’ll wind up having to be part of an extracurricular programme.”

The Cayman Islands new curriculum includes as many as 10 academic areas for students and right now Mr. McLaughlin said it seems other non-academic areas are being pushed out.

“There’s (driver’s education) and the physical education component; both of which I’m worrying a great deal about.”

He stressed no final decisions have been made on driver’s ed. He said if it is made into an after-school activity, the programme could still be required of students.

“There are a number of extra curricular activities that are actually compulsory,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We haven’t taken any decision.”

“I’m not saying that it can’t be mandatory. But it ought to be an incentive.

If you haven’t done (driver’s ed) then there are other hurdles before you reach a certain age.”

Road safety advocates such as the MattSafe committee and Cayman Islands driving instructors have urged the government to implement training programmes for young drivers quickly in the wake a several deadly crashes both this year and last.

Fourteen people died on Cayman Islands roads last year. So far this year, seven people, including an 18-year-old and two 20-year-olds have died on island roads.

In 2005, there were six road fatalities in Cayman.

With the absence of a government-run graduated drivers licensing programme, driving instructor Graham Walker said it’s imperative schools get driver’s education courses in place as soon as possible.

“They need to do that, most definitely,” Mr. Walker said.

Mr. Walker told the Caymanian Compass he felt frustrated at continuous delays with the graduated licensing programme, which was due to start in July. He said he felt the government was making the programme too complex.

“The big difficultly is trying to teach to that (graduated licensing) standard….it’s not easy,” he said.

A graduated licensing programme requires a certain amount of practical instruction for young drivers before they can obtain a full driver’s licence. The programme has been held up for two years partly because of difficulty finding qualified instructors.

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