The school bell at an Egmore school was yet to ring on Wednesday afternoon, but the road outside was already lined with autos and maxi cabs waiting to take children home.

Within 30 minutes, the empty autos were brimming with children and schoolbags, and most were carrying more than five children. Many precariously balanced themselves as they shared the driver’s seat.

With only a few schools offering transportation to its students, parents, especially working ones, are increasingly relying on private transport such as vans, autos and maxi cabs to ferry children to school. Though concerned about their safety, parents say their options are few.

A working parent in Perambur said her child studied in a Vepery school. “My child who is now in class II has been going in a maxi cab for the past five years, and we trust the driver. There are only 2-3 vehicles going to his school from this neighbourhood. If not for them, we would have to send our son alone in a vehicle, which would turn out to be quite expensive,” she said.

Though she believes in the concept of neighbourhood schools, in practice, she said, it may not work in all neighbourhoods. “We cannot compromise on quality education,” she said. Those such as R. Rajathi, whose son studies in L.K.G, said she preferred picking up and dropping her son herself. “Our house is three bus stops away and I think it is safest that I accompany my son,” she said.

A transport official said vehicles carrying children below the age of 12 years could carry one and a half times the normal capacity. But most autos are densely packed.

When asked how he ensured the safety of the younger children in his vehicle, Sridhar, an auto driver, said the ‘older children’ who studied in class VI ‘took care’ of the younger ones.

Parents said they did background checks before choosing a vehicle and a driver. One parent said she sent her children by an omni van last year as she was working then. “It is a good idea to check the driver’s licence and even have a copy of it,” she said.

Usha Seshasayee, president, Suraksha Road Safety Society, said strict enforcement of traffic rules was required.

With few schools offering transportation to students, parents rely on private vehicles to ferry children to school