A special select committee of the Jamaican Senate is inviting submissions from the public on proposals to re-examine the current system of granting driver's licences.
The focus is on the process and qualifications required for an applicant to be successful in obtaining a valid driver's licence.
The proposals are contained in a motion brought to the Senate in February by Government member, Senator Imani Duncan-Price, claiming that: licences were being issued to persons without a driving test; to persons who are illiterate, many of whom cannot interpret the road code; and to individuals who are allowed to drive vehicles heavier than the types they can handle efficiently.
Two persons have already made submissions: Paul Clemetson, head of the Island Traffic Authority (ITA); and Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's traffic division.
Clemetson advised the committee that the ITA has been considering a graduated system of licensing, including the necessity to pass a road code test before a licence can be issued, and only persons who have completed the whole process, which could take up to 18 months, would be able to drive on the roads without supervision.
Graduated driver licensing systems (GDLS) are designed to provide new drivers with driving experience and skills over time in low-risk environments. There are typically three stages involved. The applicants begin by acquiring a learner's permit, progress to a restricted, provisional or probationary licence, followed by receipt of a full driver's licence.
According to Paula Fletcher, executive director of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), the graduated system could reduce road fatalities by 30 per cent.
But while there is general agreement that something needs to be done about the issuing of driver's licences to persons unprepared for the roads, there is some concern that the new system could contribute to an increase in corruption in the road licensing system.
Critics believe that any system that delays the process will only expand the black market, as there will certainly be people unwilling to wait more than a year for a licence.
In addition to these concerns, Senior Superintendent Lewis thinks the Senate committee should summon top-ranking officials from Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ) to explain the "ongoing theft of government papers".
SSP Lewis said that over the past five months, 6,000 motor vehicle certificates; 2,000 motor vehicle titles; 3,000 licence discs; and 5,000 test link sheets have disappeared from vaults at the TAJ offices in Kingston and St Andrew.
Lewis added that raids carried out at the office have already nabbed the "mastermind" who was held with blank certificates of titles, insurance certificates and cover notes. He added that over 10,000 fictitious licences had found their way into the hands of unscrupulous persons.
The committee meets again on Thursday, July 12, at Gordon House.