According to an organization that represents more than 100 driving schools in Ecuador, amendments to the national traffic law passed by the National Assembly and awaiting approval by President Rafael Correa, could affect the livelihoods of 40,000 employees and their families.
Gorky Obando, who heads the national association, also claims that the elimination of mandatory driving tests administered by his members would make Ecuador’s roads more dangerous.
The proposed amendments would eliminate the current requirement for driving tests for those with previous driving experience and suggests that driving instruction for those without experience should be administered by a public agency.
“This proposal is regressive and does not take into account the bloody history of our roads and highways,” Obando said. “Our drivers need training,” he said, adding that driving lessons from friends and family members in inadequate. “There is a teaching process that is important for learning,” he says.
Obando says that statistics showing that 95% of traffic accidents are the result of human error back up the need for the schools. “Training is needed to reduce this figure,” Obando said. He added that Ecuador has the third highest rate of traffic deaths in South America.
Supporters of the change say that the new rules do not allow inexperienced drivers behind the wheel and say there is still a place for private driving schools. The amendment says that the government should consider providing driving lessons. According the sponsor of the law, Gabriel Rivera, “Driving instruction should not be the domain of for-profit companies.”
The legislation that granted private driving schools exclusive right to providing driving instruction was enacted during the presidency of Gustavo Noboa in 2001.
In Cuenca, four driving schools say they train between 300 and 350 students a month.
Another change to Ecuador’s Law of Traffic and Transportation would eliminate mandatory jail time for drivers who drive at what police consider “extreme speeds.”