Police promise tougher driving licence tests
The Samoa Police Service plans to introduce tough new standards for obtaining driving licences in order to lower the rate of traffic accidents.
Police have been handed the responsibility for overseeing the country’s licencing system from the Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.).
Speaking to the Samoa Observer on Saturday, the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, said that Police were seeking to create a new centre for conducting new, more rigorous driving tests.
Where previously all driver’s licences were processed at the L.T.A. premises in Vaitele will soon be moved to the disused Fagali’i Airport.
The airport was closed and transferred to the Police to become a centre for road safety training. The Samoa Police Services Traffic division will have charge of the facility and its functions, including setting the standards for issuing licences.
The Commissioner noted that the Police were in the process of formulating a new curriculum for testing prospective drivers with the aim of lowering the rate of traffic accidents.
“Since we’re taking over drivers’ licencing, we have a curriculum that’s being approved by the Samoa Qualifications Authority to really train our public before they get their licence,” the Commissioner said.
“The way a driver’s licence was done before, it was quite simple to get a driver’s licence in Samoa.
“The rules of the road and the dangers of driving a vehicle in any kind of weather conditions [will all be covered].”
Prospective drivers will go through a more intensive testing process than was administered by the L.T.A., which Fuiavailili said had made it easier for people to obtain licences.
“So there’s going to be a series of processes to go through before they get issued a driver’s licence,” the Commissioner said.
“We’re hoping to work with the courts as well so that if an individual is constantly involved in any traffic-related incidents, the courts can order that certain individual to come back and attempt the whole [driver’s education] process [again].
“We’re hoping to think of other ways to really improve and decrease incidents of crashes and also prevent injuries and save lives.”
The curriculum currently being assembled by the Samoa Police and the qualifications authority will involve new procedures for issuing licences.
“There’s going to be a real, [rigorous…] class-room setting which will include discussions of law, expectations, privileges, videos, scenarios and examples inside this classroom,” Fuiavailili said.
“Once they have completed this level they will move on to the practical level which is on the airstrip.
“We’ve already got a plan where the processes will be done, like parking, weaving, reversing, stopping, crossroads, yield and we are working on all that at Fagali’i right now, and it’s almost done.
“After that, the third phase will be on the road, and we’ll be very particular of where an individual will drive, all over specific areas and [only] then once you pass that third phase, only then will [a person be able to obtain a] driver’s licence.
“It’s going to be very challenging and full of very comprehensive materials to ensure that anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car understands traffic rules in order to decrease the [risks] of car crashes.“
Driver's licences are still currently being issued by the L.T.A. at Vaitele but under the supervision of the Police. Police trainers are already introducing the new curriculum.
Fuiavailili said the Fagalii Traffic Division is almost ready and that it will hopefully become the central point for driver training from January next year.
Last year Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, said increasing deaths on Samoa's roads were behind the Government's decision to shut the airport in addition to concerns about its safety standards.