HYDERABAD: The responsibility to curb underage driving rests with both the parents and educational institutions and not with the traffic police alone, say road safety activists and clinical psychologists. A road accident on Friday had taken lives of two Class 10 boys and left another minor severely injured as they were triple riding and hit by a speeding RTC bus. The minors were returning after tuition class in the morning; the rider was not wearing a helmet and had no valid documents too. Those working in the field of road safety say the increasing number of vehicles on the road due to the lack of adequate public transportation and last mile connectivity have been contributing factors to increased ownership of two vehicles per household. They say it has often lead to parents teaching children to ride motorcycle vehicles at a very young age.
In the past seven years Hyderabad has witnessed a vehicle boom, say RTA officials. There has been as much as 80 per cent increase in vehicle registrations in less than a decade’s time. In 2017 alone, Hyderabad registered over 28 lakh vehicles of which over 9 lakh were motorcycles. So what does the death of two Class 10 students due to underage driving have to do with the rise in the number of vehicle population in the city?
Inadequate public transport
Let’s take the case of three circles Alwal, Malkajgiri and Kapra of GHMC. The locality has eight connecting roads but often faces heavy traffic due to restrictions as the locality come under the defence lands. “The people living here have to commute to city for a living but there are not enough buses that cater to these localities. So more and more people started buying vehicles in this area, especially two-wheelers,” said C S Chandrashekar, Secretary, Federation of Northeastern Colonies of Secunderabad, who has been trying to ease the traffic restrictions on the locality.
“Underage driving happens because public transport is inadequate, parents find it convenient to send their children by two-wheelers. The ease of availability of two-wheelers which are also easy to ride has ensured that even an eight or ten-year-old is able to ride the vehicle without anybody teaching them,” said S Adishankar, secretary, Roadkraft, an NGO working on road safety in the city. The police are always short on resources and its difficult for them to be everywhere. A solution would be to make schools stakeholders in enforcement, education and awareness. Even if a few parents are caught, convicted and vehicle seized, publicise this in media it could act as a deterrent,” he added.
The fear of law
The amended Motor Vehicles Act 2016, now stuck in the Rajya Sabha, proposes to impose a three-year jail term for parents if their children are caught driving. Under the older 1988 Act, only `500 fine and a three months jail is prescribed, but almost no one is sent to jail in the city for this offence. The city traffic police regularly hold counselling sessions for underage drivers and their parents, an affair that usually happens on the sidelines of the drunk drivers counselling.