A road safety and insurance consultant is advocating that the government and boards of Catholic schools introduce road safety education programmes in the curriculum from the onset of primary school as this can lead to safer road practices in later life.
Stanislaus ‘Stan’ Huggins, CEO of Nation Drivers Company Limited and President of Trinidad and Tobago Road Safety Council firmly believes that this educational campaign will not only change the behavioural attitudes of drivers, passengers and pedestrians, but ultimately minimise fatalities.
To effectively achieve this, he said, “We have to start with the young people and go back to the school systems so in the next ten years we will get good road users.”
Huggins, in an interview with Catholic News August 30, explained that the youth are being targeted because statistics show that men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 account for a high number of road casualties.
He maintained “An educated driver is a better driver; an educated passenger is a better passenger an educated pedestrian is a better pedestrian”, adding that if the 3 Es approach– – Education, Enforcement and Engineering (roads as well as vehicles) are implemented, then positive results can follow.
In support of this, Huggins created ‘A National Road Safety Creed’ in the hope that “the life of our people will be prolonged; the nation will become more sensitive to safety issues and experience fewer traumas on our roads”.
Huggins made reference to past road safety initiatives that were later “abandoned” including the school-crossing-guards programme stating: “We’re looking at a generation and a half with no road safety education in the school system and that is why we have carnage today”.
He continued, “The police talk road safety but they are bad road users. They are not good examples of the [use of] public roads and the reason for that is that they come from a system where they had no road safety in the schools.”
Huggins highlighted that in England, road-safety programmes are inculcated in the school syllabus from as early as four years, and in the US, at high-school level.
However, he said, “We in the Caribbean do not embark on effective road safety education.”
Huggins revealed that his local prospectus for road safety and defensive driving was presented in over 30 Catholic schools. Some of the areas covered in the programme include actions taken post-accident, defensive driving, economic effects of road accidents, conditions that drive us and graphics using still pictures depicting crashes, mangled vehicles, fatalities and national road accident statistics.
On the issue of defensive driving, Huggins commented that in the US, drivers convicted of drinking and driving are jailed and auto-insurance companies “put a lot of money” to road safety education. Yet locally, he said, defensive driving is mainly advertised as a means to receive a discounted premium.
Huggins told Catholic News a Road Safety Proposal for implementation in all schools was presented to the Ministry of Education in 2014. He shared a letter from the Chief Education Officer at the Ministry of Education, Harrilal Seecharan indicating that “The Ministry of Education is however unable to support the proposal at this [time] because of financial constraints.”
Commenting on the road carnage statistics, Huggins identified that the figures for 2016 and 2017 indicate that the “bulk” of road deaths were attributed to driver/ pedestrian distractions, hazards (pot holes), drunk driving, speed and road rage.
According to Huggins, 2016 reported 132 road deaths and 2017 has recorded 45 deaths thus far.
“…We have reached the stage where we create accidents; we inflict them on ourselves. We are asking our citizens to try and police themselves because we cannot put a police officer on every corner. We don’t have the resources,” he said.
To this end, Huggins said that his certified road safety team is willing to train teachers and retired teachers on the National Road Safety Programme.
The policy is sponsored by the Ministry of Works and Transport.
Huggins had some strong words for the licensing department and driving schools stating that “the system is open to corruption”.
He criticised the ease for driving instructors to operate driving schools and emphasised that driving instructors be certified and trained to teach road safety issues such as the effects of drinking and driving on the nation’s roads.
At the end of the interview, Huggins displayed an archive of newspaper clippings on local reporting of road fatalities from 2011 to present, proudly saying, “I’m a walking encyclopedia…This has been my life.”
If you are interested in learning about road safety, you can contact Stan Huggins at 389-5880.