Transport Department deadline for raising the bar comes into effect

Close to 1,000 new vehicles hit the city roads every day, according to Transport Department figures. While this obviously increases the pressure on the roads, another area of concern is the quality and skill levels of new drivers. Official statistics show that road accidents have been increasing by about four per cent annually. At the interface between many of the applicants and the Regional Transport Offices are driving schools. However, a Transport Department circular dated October 31, 2007, points out that many of the schools are “grossly ill-equipped or lack adequate infrastructure,” listing out the requirements. The deadline for implementing the more than 40 conditions was fixed as May 31, 2010, following a Madras High Court ruling in November last year.

The requirements include vehicles used for teaching to be not older than eight years; a minimum space of 1,000 sq.ft with provisions for a lecture hall, a demonstration hall, a traffic education room and adequate parking facilities to accommodate the vehicles used to impart training. It also stipulated that initial training must not be done on public roads.

According to the guidelines, to ensure quality training no institute should allow an instructor to train more than 22 candidates a month. Also, driving instructors must have a minimum experience of five years in addition to a certificate in motor mechanics. They must also undergo refresher courses every two years.

Citing the need for more time to comply with three of the conditions, including relocating to a 1,000 sq.ft building, the driving school associations sought and obtained an extension till September 30. But all the other requirements come into force on June 1. Transport Commissioner M. Rajaram said show cause notices would be issued soon to schools that do not comply.

“It is not economically viable to provide such infrastructure,” said A.K.Jayaseelan, secretary, Tamil Nadu Driving Schools Owners Federation. Instead of focussing on the lack of a proper curriculum for driving instructors, he says the Department is unnecessarily focussing on physical infrastructure and age of vehicles.

A Transport Department official said that RTOs must also be provided with scientifically designed testing tracks. Such tracks would simulate features such as U-bends, S-bends and sharp curves. The present practice of using public roads to test the driving skills while issuing licences should be stopped, he said.

A majority of the accidents were due to poor drivers, V. Thamizh Arasan, Head of Transportation Engineering Division, IIT-Madras, said. “Anyone can get a licence now. This must stop. Licences should be issued only after a thorough test of the candidate's fitness to drive on the road.”

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