Friday, March 14, 2008


It is startling to learn that foreign bus drivers can come to New South Wales and be allowed to drive coach loads of tourists around, even if they cannot speak a word of English. Yes, foreigners do have to sit a road knowledge test for the RTA, but apparently they can sit that test in whatever language they choose. Consequently, drivers are at the wheel despite the fact that they cannot read road signs.

This has come to lkight as the result of an investigation into a fatal tourist bus crash three years ago. In 2005, Chinese bus driver Hua Chen lost control of his vehicle on a steep hill south of Wollongong. Three Taiwanese tourists on that bus died. This was an accident which would not have happened if the driver had been able to read the sign which warned that the road was too steep for buses.

The Office Of Transport Safety Investigations is reported to be concerned that another tragedy could easily occur. The Office also notes the increase in the use of variable electronic signs, and radio broadcasts inside tunnel systems. These messages cannot be learned, says the report, they must be comprehended.

The solution is simple. The Office has recommended that all drivers should be required to take their tests in English. It should be a matter of common sense, and it should never have been allowed to become a problem in the first place, but presumably, somebody somewhere must have thought that such a requirement might be a form of discrimination.

The sooner this dangerous loophole is closed, the better.

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