Many schools don't have sufficient vehicles to transport children

With the aim of enhancing road safety, the Transport Department recently issued guidelines to all educational institutions. However, effectiveness of implementation by the traffic police with the cooperation of institutions and parents would make a lot of difference, note experts.

With schools and colleges having reopening, city roads are back to being chaotic. Apart from public transport and vehicles engaged by colleges and schools, private vehicles, including autorickshaws and vans, are seen transporting students.

According to senior traffic police officials, tackling the issue of overcrowding is one of the biggest challenges. “Since we fine drivers, some of them have found strategies to escape our attention. They take narrow lanes and avoid main roads,” the official said.

Even for schools with a reasonably strong fleet, transport and road safety are not simple issues. S. Namasivayam, senior principal, Maharishi Vidya Mandir, says his student volunteers regulate traffic outside school every morning. “Though we insist that autorickshaws do not overload, not all listen to us. We are also speaking to parents on this issue.” The school operates 17 buses and 1,500 students of its total strength of 4,500 use the facility. The institution follows different timings for different classes to minimise congestion.

Not all schools have adequate number of vehicles. In fact, it is the gross inadequacy that makes road safety such a complex issue, remarked a senior traffic police official. “In the North zone, there are a total of 148 schools in the city. But only 24 vans and eight buses are run by institutions.”

Parents also have an important role, say officials. “Why should parents send their children in an overcrowded autorickshaw or van just to save some money? Isn't safety more important?”

Parents, on the other hand, say they have little choice especially if schools do not operate adequate number of buses or vans. “When both parents are employed, it is difficult to drop and pick up the child. My son's school does not operate buses in our locality. What other option do we have,” asks the mother of a class V student going to a school in Santhome. Her son travels in a private van, which she admits, is crowded.

School and parents have little control over school students using two-wheelers, according to Traffic police. “They not only ride fast, but also travel triples sometimes. It is dangerous.”

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) M. Ravi said that in order to raise overall awareness, the department would soon screen a documentary made on road safety in all schools. “We also have some power point presentations made on the subject ready.”