Staff Reporter

Suggest joint exercises and tie-ups with Police and Transport Departments

  • Children could help police regulate traffic
  • Need for dedicated bicycle lanes, special buses for children

    CHENNAI: The principal of a school in Nellikuppam in Cuddalore district set the mood for a discussion on safe transport of schoolchildren from their homes to school.

    A lesson learnt

    Six children of Krishnaswamy Memorial Higher Secondary School in Nellikuppam died recently when the van carrying them collided with a bus.

    Two children, who were maimed for life, are still in hospital. R. Natarajan, the principal, recalled the event. The driver was on leave and the cleaner who drove the van on the day of the accident was speaking on his mobile phone. The van was carrying 30 students twice the number it is allowed to carry. The bus, with which the van collided, carried 160 passengers, he said. The bus was trying to overtake a stationary vehicle in front of a temple, obstructing the view of the drivers.

    Mr. Natarajan said the accident had taught him several lessons. Now class teachers maintain a registry, including the mode of transport of the students and the contact numbers of the parents.

    Principals of other schools also dwelt on their experiences. Younger children could be taken to traffic parks, while older students could help the police to regulate traffic, thus learning the rules firsthand. Road Safety Patrol programmes should be recognised on a par with NCC and NSS, the teachers said. They also raised the issue of the mode of transport of children to their respective schools.

    Bus rides too unsafe

    With free bicycles being given, children were now more at risk. Dedicated bicycle lanes, carpooling in private schools and special buses for children using free passes were needed, they said. A principal from a school in Thanjavur said that, with the support of the Collector, the school now transported its children by Government-run buses even on Sundays for special classes. Often bus drivers did not stop in the designated stops, making children run after the bus. "In our school, every day children fall as they run to catch a bus. Such incidents are not life threatening and hence not reported," noted another principal.

    Most teachers felt that speed breakers, zebra crossings and signals were arbitrarily removed or installed, with little concern for children's safety. Schools along the national highways and arterial roads should have walkways, it was suggested. Teachers welcomed a separate colour code for buses transporting children.

    Some suggested a separate authority to regularly check the fitness of school vehicles, banning mothers from using motorised two-wheelers to drop children if they live close to the schools, and involving the school in the process of issuing learner's licences to older children. Safety barriers, reflectors for bicycles, and the wearing of helmets while cycling were suggested.

    Another principal suggested that the Transport department raise the minimum qualification of drivers to Standard X.

    Bicycle rallies for children and a ban on 100 cc bikes in schools could help prevent accidents.

    The teachers also suggested staggering school hours and employing drivers between 30 and 50 years only.

    Senior personnel from the Police and Education departments participated in the meeting held on Friday.