The YouTube post, which has gone viral, showing two children driving an imported car inside a posh residential area in Thrissur has drawn attention to the menace of underage driving.
Motor Vehicles Department officials in Ernakulam said they often come across incidents of underage driving during inspections near schools. Often the culprits are children from affluent families driving high-end and imported motorcycles.
But there have been exceptions. “There was this 17-year-old we came across a few months ago. On pursuing his case we were surprised to find that he belonged to a very poor family with his mother working as a domestic help and father a labourer. They were forced to buy him a two-wheeler due to constant pestering,” said Ernakulam Regional Transport Officer B.J. Antony.
In a drive held last month, the MVD officials traced the number of eight vehicles dangerously driven by underaged youngsters and who sped away during inspection.
When MVD officials tracked them to their homes, it became clear that in many cases parents were not even aware that their wards were driving around. “In fact, they had not bought their children the vehicles. They had managed to find the money to hire it. We warned the parents and the school authorities to keep an eye on underage driving,” said Mr. Antony.
Police officers said that it led to another probability of children committing crimes to find the money to hire vehicles.
The obsolete provisions in the Central Motor Vehicles Act mean that MVD officials can at best impose a fine of up to Rs. 1,500 in cases of underage driving.
K.S. Baby Vinod, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Traffic West, said underage driving was a reality though not many cases had been detected. “Fatal accidents caused by underage driving have not been reported in the city of late. Even in such a scenario, the trial will take place in a juvenile court, and being a minor the culprit cannot be imposed with severe punishments like imprisonment. The owner of the vehicle will also manage to escape with a meagre fine,” he said.
C.J. John, a senior psychiatrist, said the incident in which two children were found driving an imported car was the reflection of a dangerous trend that had crept into parenting culture.
“Parents are using children as a tool for bolstering their own self-esteem. That is reflected in academics, extracurricular activities, and even in adventurous and illegal acts like underage driving. They take pride in boasting that their children can drive at a young age,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thrissur police were pursing the case of underage driving in their jurisdiction. “We have identified that the car driven by the children has a Chandigarh registration. We are awaiting details from MVD,” said P. Prakash, Thrissur City Police Commissioner.
However, Thrissur RTO C.K. Ashokan said the department had no details about the registration of such an imported car. “There is the possibility that even if the owner is residing in the State he may have got it registered outside to save tax.” The department, he said, was trying to trace the owner.