Two Haitian Creole driver’s education classes planned for Springfield

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Two Haitian Creole language driving education classes will be held early next month as part of an effort to aid more Haitian immigrants in obtaining valid licenses.

The classes will be held Dec. 1 and Dec. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon at CareerConnectED at 700 S. Limestone St. To attend classes, register in advance at Springfield Saint Vincent de Paul, according to Peggy Johnson, Haitian services facilitator for the nonprofit.

Johnson said the classes will cover essential rules of the road to know, signage and more. She said Johnson Salomon, a patient advocate at Rocking Horse Community Health Center, filmed a video with the Ohio Department of Transportation in Haitian Creole.

“It might be easier for them to pass their driving test if they take this,” Johnson said.

Since a Haitian driver was involved in a school bus accident that killed an 11-year-old and injured dozens of other Northwestern students on Aug. 22, dozens of Springfielders have expressed concerns at city commission meetings regarding the recent influx of Haitian immigrants coming to the city.

Charges are pending against the unlicensed immigrant driver of the vehicle accused of crossing the center lane and causing the bus to overturn.

Thousands of Haitian immigrants have come to Springfield in recent years. Estimates range from 5,000 to 10,000 Haitians now living in the city.

According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ website, immigrants with a permanent residence card — known as a green card — go through the same process as non-immigrant driver’s license applicants. They must present their green card, Social Security card if one was issued and proof of Ohio residency before they can take the test.

Dan Tierney, press secretary for Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, said in an email to the Springfield News-Sun the Department of Public safety is translating some BMV and Ohio Traffic Safety Office materials into Haitian Creole.

Tierney said that driving simulators, like the one at the Madison County Career Center, are an option being considered.

The Ohio Traffic Safety Office will create a new U.S. driver/English language learner curriculum and “train-the-trainer” options for all immigrant and English language learner communities in the state to translate and use, Tierney said.

Driving is much different in Haiti than in the U.S. According to Johns Hopkins University, in Haiti there are few road or traffic signs or working lights, traffic is often congested and road conditions are poor.

Traffic rules are often ignored and unenforced, according to Johns Hopkins. Speeding and aggressive driving are the norm, drivers do not always follow right-side driving law, many cars do not have headlights or taillights, and abandoned vehicles blocking the flow of traffic are not uncommon.

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