Sandhya Soman

Four were pulled up for not maintaining logbooks "If Government is serious about reducing accidents, it should ensure that driving lessons do not become a means to making money."

CHENNAI: Mug up the signals in the backseat, put your hand out after 20 sessions and you have the licence to drive.

This is the routine followed by most city driving schools that do not even bother to keep a track of their students, say officials and traffic managers.

Last month, the Transport department pulled up four of the 129 driving schools in Chennai city area for not maintaining logbooks.

"They did not even have details about when the applicant had joined the school," says a senior official.

A decision on suspension of their permits would be taken after a detailed enquiry, he said.

However, the problems are not confined to logbooks.

Common sight

It is a common sight to see `branches' of one school in various parts of the city giving the go-by to the requirement of minimum 10/15 feet floor space as instructed by a Transport department circular.

The small cubicle of a driving school in Egmore has more pictures of gods and goddesses gracing the walls than the mandatory traffic signs. It has "headquarters" in Royapettah.

"We charge Rs. 2,500 for 20 classes. Each class covers 5 km," says the manager.

Lessons on in the backseat

Though he maintains that the instructors are qualified (minimum ITI diploma holder), most lessons are taken on the backseat, as Mary Thomas from Nungambakkam recently found out.

"Signals you can still mug up from the book but I had to go to another place because at the first school I did not really pick up how to reverse," says Ms. Thomas. First, she had a problem locating the `right' car. She then she realised that the 20th class was at the Regional Transport Office.

"We will ensure that only those applicants who are thorough get the licence," says the official. Says secretary of Automobile Association, Southern India, M.K. Subramanian: "Road safety begins with when you learn to drive."