BENGALURU: Four instances of city school bus drivers being caught drunk behind the wheel in the last three weeks have caused parents to re-think their child’s travel options. The incidents have raised concerns over safety measures adopted by schools regarding transportation.
While schools have often been quick to acquit themselves of culpability on the matter, parents are now dreading the thought of sending children on school buses.
R Hitendra, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said the increase in school bus drivers caught drunk is certainly a safety concern. “We are informing respective schools to take action against these drivers. Their driving licences are also being suspended. We have decided to intensify checks on school buses in the coming days.”
Parents believe that schools should take responsibility for the transportation they offer. Maithreyi Nadapana, mother of two and member of Bangalore Schools’ Parents Association, said schools should appoint only experienced drivers after thorough background checks. “Most schools charge a hefty fee for transportation, so they should be responsible for the safety of children as well. It’s better to conduct a check before drivers go on duty, to ensure that they are not drunk.” She said some schools in the city have a facility where one can track the movement and speed of school buses or vans.
Vasudev Sharma, a child rights activist, said drunk drivers give the wrong message to students. “There are chances of them behaving badly with children when they are drunk. Most schools rarely conduct background checks before hiring drivers and attendants.” He added, “Schools should have orientation programmes for drivers about safety.”
Bus services outsourced
D Shashi Kumar, general secretary of the Karnataka Associated Managements of English-Medium Schools (KAMS), said most vehicles which were involved in drunk driving cases may not be owned by schools. “School bus services may be outsourced to private firms. There are few schools which have more than 40 buses and it is not easy monitoring all drivers. But schools should definitely be more vigilant and ensure safety of their students”.
A traffic police officer said, “Reckless driving among school bus drivers as they have to complete multiple schedules and reach on time at school during peak hour traffic.”
Bengaluru Traffic Police don’t maintain a database on the number of school drivers caught for drunk driving. But statistics show that number of people booked for drunk driving in the city has increased from 55,138 in 2014 to 62,576 in 2015.
“We were surprised when we caught a driver being drunk as early as 7:30am. He was driving recklessly without a driving licence or a permit. Many students in the bus were crying because of his reckless driving,” said a traffic police officer.