Precautions in hopping on and off, and avoidance of overloading auto rickshaws will go a long way

The tragic incident at Mudichur near Tambaram in which a school girl was run over by her school van after a fatal fall through a gaping hole in the vehicle, has come as a wake-up call for every private school management operating buses, vans or vehicles for the transit of pupils. A few more incidents of school students, including higher secondary students, getting killed in accidents have shocked society.

While some of the fatal accidents were due to the indifferent attitude of the crew and the poor condition of the vehicles, a few were due to playful behaviour coupled with ignorance of traffic rules by youngsters. There is an urgent need to create awareness among the students of the precautions to be taken while getting down from the school vehicles and crossing the roads.

Members of service organisations, volunteers of public welfare associations, and State government officials particularly those attached to transport department have all joined hands to sensitise stakeholders to road safety measures, particularly for avoiding accidents involving vehicles belonging to schools or colleges.

Every service organisation has risen up to the occasion to contribute its mite towards achieving accident-free transport facility. A joint effort by the city police, Tiruchi region of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation, District Youth and Students’ Exnora, and Junior Chamber of India, Tiruchi, in their annual ‘training of trainers camp on traffic rules’ has paid special attention to ensuring safety for school pupils. “We have been conducting the training for the past 15 years. Till last year, the thrust was on observing and obeying the traffic signals and avoiding horns in hospital zones. But, this year, based on the Mudichur incident, we have incorporated a special formula,” says S.P. Mohan, state president of Tamil Nadu State Youth and Students’ Exnora.

The 15-day programme on the old collectorate campus imparts training on traffic rules to about 3,000 student leaders who, in turn, disseminate it to other students. “This year, we have included a special session to sensitise students to the importance of safety on board their school vehicles. We explain the danger caused by overloading in auto rickshaws,” he said.

Students, in turn, were being asked to impress upon their parents to arrange for auto rickshaw free from the danger. He suggests that strict action be initiated against students driving two-wheelers without obtaining LLR or driving licence. But, a large number of high school students come by two-wheelers to the schools. “Parents should prefer safety of their wards and should not purchase a two-wheeler for them,” he says.

Padma Mahadevan, a resident of Mambazha Salai, complains that a large number of school students were driving two wheelers, that too at a high speed. Transport department has come out with a few strict measures in the aftermath of the Mudichur incident.

“We have ordered temporary cancellation of ‘fitness certificate’ for 34 vehicles used for the transport of students by private educational institutions,” says S. Balasubramaniam, Regional Transport Officer, Srirangam. The technical soundness and road worthiness of school vehicles were inspected through a special drive.

Mr. Balasubramaniam says that the department had released a compact disc to sensitise the private school managements to road safety. Classified into various topics, the compact disc delves around the ‘maintenance of vehicles’, ‘records and registers’, ‘responsibility of drivers’ and ‘role of parents’. A study by the department revealed that most drivers resorted to over speeding, because of the delay on the part of a few parents in sending their wards to the van-stop. Flouting of rules has been a major problem with the vehicle drivers and institutions. “During a surprise check of 60 vehicles used for transporting school students, we impounded 10 vehicles,” he says. The flouting of norms pertained to major offences, including unauthorised use of LPG cylinders and operation without fitness certificate.

Jayashree Muralidharan, Collector, hopes that the training currently underway on the old collectorate campus would benefit the students. She advised the students aged above 18 years, to obtain a licence before driving a two-wheeler. She advised them to use helmet.