Vehicles violating school transport norms common on roads

Autorickshaws with children sitting on both sides of the driver with bags hung all over, vans carrying over two dozen students, and crowded school buses are a regular sight on roads even after the two tragedies that claimed 10 school students.

The monitoring of the Motor Vehicles Department and the police personnel of vehicles transporting children to educational institutions since Monday after the Channankara tragedy has not brought in any major change. On Wednesday, autorickshaws crammed with students and packed mini-buses and taxis could be spotted in front of many schools.

Many institutions, including professional colleges, cram as many students as possible in their vehicles in violation of motor vehicle rules. The inability of school managements to ply adequate buses and inadequate public transport facilities force parents to depend on private vehicles that charge less. Jyothinilayam Higher Secondary School, which has 2,000 students, operates four vehicles that can together carry 149 students.

As per rules, two children below 13 years can be accommodated on a seat. Thus, vehicles transporting children can accommodate double the seating capacity. Motor Vehicles Department officials say even reputed school managements take advantage of this provision.

Although established schools opt for new buses, others prefer discarded buses of the KSRTC. The buses are not child-friendly as they lack luggage racks for storing school bags, fire extinguisher, horizontal grills on windows, and reliable locks on doors.

There are 1,017 vehicles with Educational Institution Bus (EIB) permit in Thiruvananthapuram, 206 in Parassala, 376 in Neyyatinkara, 502 in Attingal, 182 in Kazhakuttam, and 438 in Nedumanagad. But, the number of vehicles transporting children may be thrice this number.

In many school buses, seats are reduced to accommodate more students. Often, the violations are made after the vehicle passes the Certificate of Fitness (CF) Test. In the Channankara accident, an MVD team led by Deputy Transport Commissioner, South Zone, E.S. James found that the speed governor was detached after the CF test held early this month.

Autorickshaws, taxis, and vans are more vulnerable to the risks of overloading. Three-wheelers have little flank protection. An overloaded vehicle acquires a momentum that is more than its controls are designed to handle.

Joint Transport Commissioner Alex Paul told The Hindu that 8,000 drivers plying school vehicles across the State had been trained since the February 17 Karikkakom accident by the Road Safety Authority.

Directives had been issued to MVD officials to enforce safety guidelines for vehicles transporting students .