Reading, writing and driving Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
November 20, 2001

THE relationship between being able to read and write English and driving a vehicle may not be readily obvious to some, particularly those who can drive without being literate.

One can learn the basics of driving by watching and being taught by others and we are sure that some drivers who somehow got their licences without somehow going through a reading and writing test, may have excellent road safety records.

And while the ability to read and write English would not necessarily make for a safer and better driver, one would expect that a literate person would be more amenable to grasping the basics of road safety outlined in booklets and the highway code.

Driving on the left-hand side of the road, slowing and turning when required, is not all there is to being in control of a vehicle, especially on a busy highway.

A tractor or rice harvester driver employed to work in the fields away from the main roads and highways in the population centres would not be subjected to the same rigours and conditions of the driver at large in the city, town or village.

Similarly, the driver on the jungle trail, in the mines and in logging concessions, is on different roads, highways and byways to those that drivers in urban and rural population centres take.

But being a driver in the modern world is so demanding that certain basics are required, including the ability to read and write. It, for example, requires some degree of literacy to be able to correctly interpret traffic signs and someone who cannot read and write would not be able to do this.

The fact that new prerequisites under consideration for granting a driver's licence include the ability to read and write English indicates that the authorities now acknowledge that this has been a drawback to safety on the roads.

This is a forward-looking step because if the proposal is implemented, it would mean that those allowed to drive vehicles would be required to have a certain IQ (Intelligence Quotient) level.

In the absence of any detailed and scientific study, it would be difficult to conclude that the growing lawlessness on the roads is related to below average IQ among drivers.

But it is generally accepted that people who are literate are rational and of a certain level of intelligence that is reflected in the way they behave and relate to other humans and the world around them.

There are those who are models of care, courtesy and consideration, but the baffling, totally inconsiderate and callous attitude of some mini-bus drivers often creates the impression that they can be counted among those who cannot read and write.

Their manners, their attitude and general irresponsible outlook towards others on the roads leave a lot to be desired and subjecting them to the rigours of learning to read and write English may force a drastic change in attitude.

There are many in this society who cannot read and write and the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Organisation of American States (OAS), is on an admirable public campaign to try to spread the reading habit among children and in the homes.

Ensuring all drivers are also literate would be a welcome turning of the page.