Special Correspondent

CUDDALORE: In-principle approval has been given for setting up of model driver training schools in 13 States, with each costing Rs.4.35 crore, Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways T.R. Baalu has said.

One school will be opened in Tamil Nadu, he said, speaking at the inauguration of the four-laned Ulundurpet-Eluthur stretch at Vepur, 95 km from here, on Saturday. These schools would become centres of excellence for driver training and would boast of simulators and scientific tracks for testing the driving competence.

Mr. Baalu said there was a rapid increase in vehicular population—from 0.31 million in 1951 to 72.92 millions in 2004. Road accidents and deaths they caused had become a cause for concern. During 2005, road accidents claimed 94,000 lives, and the toll went up to 1,05,479 in 2006. As per statistics, 75-80 per cent of the accidents were due to the fault of drivers. Hence there was an urgent need to improve the skills of drivers.

He said the Ministry was conducting a refresher training programme for drivers through non-governmental organisations. They had trained 59,000 drivers during 2007-08 and a target to train 75,000 drivers had been fixed for the current financial year. The Ministry had also strengthened the Road Safety Cell and involved the schools adjacent to the National Highways for carrying out safety awareness campaigns, and the panchayats for protecting road safety devices.

Mr. Baalu said the Ministry had launched a project to equip the hospitals on the highways with trauma care centres.