The news of the tragic death of nine children and a school teacher in Vedaranyam, due to reckless driving of the van driver last week, has come in as a wake up call to educational institutions in this part of the region.

Suddenly, schools and education department authorities seem to have woken up as they have planned to jointly conduct awareness camps at their campuses about the need for safety while transporting children from homes to schools and back.

According to the Regional Transport Office (RTO), in Madurai central division alone there are 133 school/college buses which had obtained permit for operating as “educational institution vehicles” (EIV) to transport school/college students and teachers. An estimated 350 such vehicles as EIVs would be operating in the city/district, said Regional Transport Officer (Madurai central) T.G. Thomas here on Monday.

During a surprise check conducted about a fortnight ago, the RTO (Madurai central) seized a school bus for not possessing a valid permit. “We are planning to convene a meeting with all school correspondents/secretaries on safety aspects to be followed as per the Motor Vehicles Act by the drivers. This is being done in the larger interest of the children and teachers using the vehicles daily,” he said.

Equal responsibility

Another officer in the RTO (South) said that be it a rule or not, parents and school managements had equal responsibility in ensuring safety of the children. Instead of expecting the authorities to thrust the law, they themselves should adhere to the rules. If the educational institutions are going to ignore the law, then who else would they expect to follow, he questioned. Simple things like “do not use air horn, do not speak over mobile phone while driving…” should be followed strictly by people, he said.

Sumathy Rajan, a parent, said that only when there are any accidents involving school children like the Vedaranyam incident that people talk about safety. A kind of seriousness is there for a while. Drivers found driving in a rash and negligent manner should be suitably warned.

Ranjini, another parent, said autorickshaw drivers transporting children beyond the stipulated limit in their vehicle should be taken to task by the police. There must be a sustained drive to educate them on road rules. Parents should not send their children in overloaded autorickshaws.

They must be ready to spend some more money on paying for vehicles that carry less children, she added.

Yet another parent, A.S. Mahendra Varman, said that schools must give some allowance in timing to the drivers so that they would not indulge in rash driving. Drivers should be given counselling by the school management. With more and more houses coming up in suburbs, school/college buses are plying from different ends of the city. Road discipline must begin at the individual level, he said.

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