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Driving instructors want changes at Licensing Authority

Driving instructors in Barbados are concerned that a lack of transparency at the Barbados Licensing Authority has left too many loopholes in the system, opening it up to questionable practices.

The instructors have raised questions about the lack of consistency in the way driving tests are executed and say the process has left them and their students feeling like victims of an extremely partial process. They have also complained that efforts to secure the attention of authorities have not been taken seriously.

Barbados TODAY late on Wednesday evening sat in on a meeting with a small group of instructors, who, along with Barbados Road Safety Association President, Sharmane Roland Bowen declared they were at their wits’ end with the low standard of operations at MTW.

Driving instructors Dennis Douglin (left) and Erwin Downes (right) discussing their issues with Barbados Road Safety Association President  Sharmane Roland-Bowen.

Driving instructors Dennis Douglin (left) and Erwin Downes (right) discussing their issues with Barbados Road Safety Association President Sharmane Roland-Bowen.

“There is no objectivity. If the testing officer says so, no matter what anybody else says, that’s it. When you complain, it makes little or no sense. They will give you a hearing, but nothing is ever done,” said owner of Douglin’s Driving College, Dennis Douglin.

He added that some factions at MTW were against driving instructors “who are upright and honest and want to do the right thing in Barbados”.

He claimed that some students, for example, are having licences granted to them before they are fully competent drivers, in his opinion as a 40-year-old veteran of the industry.

“A driver is a person who has the ability to control a vehicle by himself without endangering property and who has the ability to read and interpret the road. If a student is depending on me to assist him in reading and interpreting the road, assisting in controlling the vehicle or depending on me to stop him from damaging any person or property, that student could never be ready. And if he in that state can go in with another driving instructor and pass a test, then something has to be wrong and that is what I am trying to correct.

“I believe there is room for the police to investigate what is happening in the driving fraternity. I can provide circumstantial evidence and where there is smoke there is fire and there’s a lot of smoke in town,” he said while admitting he had been offered bribes “several times”.

Douglin however conceded: “There must be collaboration between driving instructors and the Barbados Licensing Authority for better to be accomplished. We are not anti MTW but we are interested in making driving safe and better for all Barbadians,” said Douglin.

The spokesman said he had already made his concerns known to Minister of Transport and Works, Dr William Duguid and other top officials, but was not satisfied with their response.

When contacted, Duguid said he could not comment as he had very little information on the matter but promised to investigate.

The disgruntled instructors said that in the past, testing officers were better vetted and indicated that regular training of officers was considered essential.

The men attending the meeting also complained that students checking in late for driving tests were sometimes given preference over students who arrived early without explanation. They also argued that the four testing officers currently in place were not enough to adequately service the system.

“More people are learning to drive, because they are far more vehicles available to persons in Barbados and if that is the case, there should be more testing officers because the demand is greater.

Road safety advocate, Sharmane Roland Bowen also raised her voice in support of the upset instructors.

“There is no standard of assessment that each and every person that is going out for a test has to abide by. I don’t mean a stupid checklist for you to tick. Currently, you are being judged according to an officer’s personal standard and that is not right.

“You should not be putting students under any maneuvers that you personally think they should be put through. There should be an easily accessible checklist and every area critical to your success should be included in that training.

“I am here this evening in full support of what my colleagues are saying, because road safety has a big part to play with how we allow persons to come into the driving network.

“Driving is a serious thing. It could take your life, it can injure you and it could injure others and driving standards for those who will be admitted to the driving network must be of the highest standard,” said Roland-Bowen. kareemsmith@barbadostoday.bb

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