Last week, 34 participants from the West and South learned the basics of road safety and today it was the turn of traffic and municipal personnel from the North who met in Belize City. The Belize Road Safety Project aims not only to upgrade Belize’s roads to world-class standard, but also to upgrade the minds of its drivers and passengers who sometimes act less than their age when in front of a wheel. Consultant to the project from Canada, Mavis Johnson, gives PLUS News a crash course on what not to do on the road.
Mavis Johnson – Consultant:
We need to ensure that they are driving with their seat-belts on. We need to encourage them to wear seat-belts in the backs of their vehicles as well as the front, and on all roads. The legislation right now only indicates you have to wear a seat-belt if you’re driving on the highway. Well, you might have to stop in a hurry in Belize City or in Belmopan and so you need your seat-belt on wherever you are. We want to ensure that drivers are awake, not fatigued, not driving too long, and that they are not impaired through drinking. We want to ensure that drinking and driving is seen to be socially unacceptable, as it has become in many other countries. We can learn from all these other countries, about the impact on families of people who have had too much to drink and then gone to drive. We need to talk to people about not using the cell phone, or texting while they’re driving This has become very popular, especially with young people..
The project lasts for three years and will include upgrades of major roads including the Northern and Western Highways. A release from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development says this will be the first of many training programs that will be delivered over the next 3 years which will be directed at specific road safety partners, focusing on their individual priority topics. These include schools, municipal bodies, police and enforcement personnel and ordinary citizens. The project is funded partially by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for $14 million. Mavis Johnson, who has 40 years experience in teaching introductory road safety courses like these, summarizes what the group participating today should have learned.
Mavis Johnson – Consultant:
What I’ve tried to provide these people with today is an example of international good practice, and they can see for themselves what more they could do to help people all across Belize, ‘cause we did this training in Belmopan yesterday. What we need to do is help the officers, the Traffic Officers, the Transport Officers, to understand why they also need to do enforcement. The Police are the people who live with these people that are being killed. Sometimes they are a bit hesitant being strictly enforced, but we need to ensure that it’s for the people’s benefit that we’re trying to do this.