The death of 12-year old Abirami has shocked parents and school heads across the city, and led to calls for safety standards for schoolchildren on the roads.

(See infographic at left.)

The city traffic police are set to organise a drive to crack down on school students riding two-wheelers with engine displacements of over 50 cc. According to transport department officials, licences are given to those between the ages of 16 and 18 to ride vehicles with engine powers of less than 50 cc. “Only at 18 can you get a licence to ride geared motorcycles,” said an official.

However, several youngsters in the city ride geared bikes without licences, posing a risk to both themselves and other motorists on the road.

‘Parents are the reason’

Officials said the primary reason schoolchildren rode geared bikes were their parents.

“Every day, at least 10 parents ask us to give their children licences to ride motorcycles with engines above 50 cc. They sometimes argue with us. We refuse such requests. Parents should either drop their children to school or arrange for autorickshaws to ferry them,” said the official.

Traffic police personnel said they would also create awareness among schools about children riding powerful bikes. “Children cannot control powerful motorcycles at high speeds. Also, some of them find racing a thrill. Once we complete the awareness programme, we will start the drive to crack down on students riding illegally,” said a senior traffic police officer.

Sakthivel, the manager of Spartan Matriculation Higher Secondary School where Abirami studied, said it was essential to have speed-breakers in front of schools.

“We have two outside our school but they are not high enough, and so vehicles do not slow down. Bikes and cars driven at high speed even over these bumps,” he said.

Avoid motorcycles

Schools said they always reminded students and their parents to avoid motorcycles.

“Students in primary classes are not allowed to ride bicycles to schools. We allow students only in class VI and above to come in bicycles. We have prohibited students from using powered two-wheelers. A student could have the skill to ride a motorcycle but may not have the maturity to navigate through heavy traffic,” said Chitra Prasad, principal of NSN Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chitlapakkam.

The school has asked students coming in bicycles to exercise caution while on the road. “We ask them to travel on the left side of the road and not to ride in groups,” she said. Ms. Prasad also said that roads leading to schools could be made one-ways during school hours.

N. Manivannan of Tondiarpet, who is a father of two school-going children, wanted a change in schools’ timings as per the traffic profile of the area. “In Washermanpet and Tondiarpet, school students travel on the footboard of buses. School timings should not clash with office hours as this causes heavy traffic on the roads,” he said.

C. Muniappan, headmaster of Chennai Boys Higher Secondary School, Nungambakkam said city roads should have dedicated bicycle lanes. “There should be restrictions on the entry of heavy vehicles in school zones,” he said.

Wear helmets

Helmets are mandatory for their students even if they ride bicycles, said S. Amudha Lakshmi, principal of Chettinad Vidyashram.

“At the beginning of every year, we send a circular to parents asking them not to send their children on two-wheelers. Parents should ensure that children do not ride motorcycles and students should cooperate,” she said.

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