Holmwood VP suggests ways to curb road accidents involving students

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 28, 2013

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CHRISTIANA, Manchester — Edward Hector, an educator at Holmwood Technical since 1987, can reel off from memory eight or nine road accidents involving vehicles carrying students of the school which have caused injury and even death.

In the worst incident, a speeding bus crashed and overturned on the Bryce Hill road, northern Manchester, in April 2011. The accident left four people, including three Holmwood girls, dead.

The latest accident was less than two weeks ago. Eighteen Holmwood students were hospitalised after the minibus in which they were travelling from Mandeville to Christiana, overturned on Pen Hill (Shooters Hill), in the vicinity of the Kirkvine bauxite/alumina Windalco plant.

Police say that the driver was ticketed for careless driving minutes before the accident. He will now have to answer to the charge of dangerous driving in the Mandeville Resident Magistrates court.

Hector, who has been balancing his responsibilities as track and field coach with that of vice-principal for over 10 years, is among those who have sought to offer solutions to minimising accidents.

He believes a multifaceted approach is required.

At the heart of many of the accidents is careless driving and in some cases it is students who are fuelling the craziness in the drivers, Hector said. He identified the music favoured by young people as a contributing factor.

"Hype music makes you behave hype; soothing music makes you behave calm. Young people think they will live forever. They don’t think about it (accidents) …. Some of them don’t care," he said.

He believes messages underlining the importance of exercising due care on the roads should be relentlessly aimed at motorists and young people utilising all forms of media.

"Public education is one of the keys. All around… just constantly at it. Road sign(s) need to be more graphic and more straightforward. If (people) don’t respect the law… they need to fear it," he said.

Hector added that students should also be encouraged to be responsible in their choice of the vehicles that they take to school and try to be early so that there is no need to rush.

"They should get up out of their beds (in time) and come to school. Most of these accidents happen after school starts. The kids are anxious to come and the buses are rushing (to make the trip)," he said.

Where operators of public transportation are concerned, the outspoken vice-principal said, currently the process is "too easy" and there is need for "rigorous training and profiling".

He believes that with some amount of urgency, school zones with strict rules for motorists, should be officially established to better manage indiscipline on the roads. He said vigilant enforcement of school zone rules would force drivers to reduce their speed and behave with greater care. The spin-off could be that drivers may become accustomed to driving responsibly when transporting students and passengers even outside of these areas.

Hector said: "I think that it’s time the Government now institute school zones. We copy a lot of bad things from America but the good things we don’t copy. This is one of the good things that would help us. The gun court was… built nearly overnight because some prominent people in the society were murdered."

Hector said the distance of travel to school for many students was a major issue. In the case of Holmwood, he confirmed that students were travelling from as far as the southern tip of Manchester, St Elizabeth, St Ann, Clarendon, and Trelawny.

However, while in support of the general principle of geographical zoning of schools, Hector said that it should be done in a way which leaves parents with options of where their children are educated.

"On the whole there should be some attempt to zone (geographically), but it should not be that strict. On the other hand, I don’t think a lot of parents would object to geographical zoning because as the situation now stands, the economy is (already) forcing many parents to send their children to the closest schools anyway," he said.





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