Puducherry

There’s just no stopping these underage drivers

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Schoolchildren on two-wheelers pose a threat to themselves, others

Despite a number of circulars issued by the Transport Department and the School Education Department, directing schools to dissuade students from riding two-wheelers to class, schoolchildren continue to have a free run, thanks to the lack of effective enforcement by the police.

It is a common sight in Puducherry to see schoolchildren, especially boys, riding two-wheelers and high-end motorcycles recklessly, indulging in daredevilry and violating the law, posing serious threat to their lives and that of other road users.

Flouting rules

A Transport Department official said youngsters in the 16-18 age group were only allowed to ride two-wheelers powered by a 50 cc engine, with a driving license or a learner’s license. “The minimum age to apply for a licence to drive a private motor vehicle is 18. However, the rule is openly flouted and underage drivers are seen zipping on roads, riding motorcycles above 100-150 cc,” he said.

“The Department has sent several circulars to the School Education Department to take stringent measures to curb such violations. Parents must also understand the problem, as children themselves are at risk, and they cannot claim insurance in the event of minors meeting with accidents,” the official noted.

Despite a number of schools having banned underage students from riding two-wheelers, minors continue to ride to their schools, parking their vehicles at nearby campuses. “Schoolteachers must also check whether students are parking their vehicles at parking slots in nearby campuses, and coming to school,” the transport official said.

According to Senior Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Niharika Bhatt, “Underage riding is an offence under the Motor Vehicles Act. In the last two months, over 9,000 police notices were issued for various traffic violations, and riding of two-wheelers by minors formed part of the list of violations. All police stations have been strictly instructed to conduct checks during school hours and book minors riding vehicles,” she said.

Antonius Britto, principal, Amalorpavam Higher Secondary School, said no student was allowed to ride two-wheelers to the school, right from the institution’s inception. “If a student is caught violating the rules, the vehicle is seized, and parents are summoned to the school. In our school, students can commute either using private transport or they can accompany their parents while getting here. But riding to school is strictly prohibited,” he said.

A schoolteacher, on conditions of anonymity, said two-wheelers come handy for students commuting to coaching classes in the morning.

Due to peer pressure, students pester their parents for a bike, and they give into their demands, unmindful of the dangers involved. Over 80% of students attending coaching centres commute only on bikes, the teacher said.

Parents’ responsibility

“If minors use two-wheelers to commute to school, it is the responsibility of the parents to bear the punishment, in case of any mishap. A system is already in force in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where law enforcement authorities have started cracking the whip on underage drivers,” a senior transport official said.

“I have not given a two-wheeler to my son, who is in Class X in a private school. He has been insisting that we get him a new bike due to peer pressure. I allow him to use a cycle to get to school and coaching classes,” sais R. Balamurugan, a resident of Lawspet.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 6:40:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/theres-just-no-stopping-these-underage-drivers/article29913679.ece

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