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A risky ride to school and back


Vehicles transporting school children are vulnerable to road accidents, reports L. Srikrishna


— Photo: G. Moorthy

PRECIOUS CARGO:Satchels atop are the only indication that the van is transporting students.

The year 2011 has started on an ominous note for traffic police in the rural parts of Madurai district. Almost every third day since January 1, ‘108' emergency ambulance has been pressed into service to rescue school children involved in road accidents — the children suffered injuries while travelling to school from home on the Chekkanoorani-Usilampatti stretch, at Pottulpatti near Usilampatti, and near Sholavandan.

Madurai Rural Police said that, in the first incident, even as children were boarding a van, a speeding private mofussil bus hit it from behind causing injuries to nine children seated inside the van. After treatment for bruises, the children returned home.

In the second incident at Sholavandan, the van driver was driving in a rash manner and the vehicle turned upside down at a curve. Twelve children studying in a private school got injured. They were rushed to Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai for treatment, G. Thanikaivel Murugan, District Manager, ‘108' ambulance services, said.

Everyday, children travel from home to schools and back in different modes of transport. Other than the van or bus driver, a conductor used to take charge of the children boarding and alighting from the vehicle.

While few children are dropped in and picked up from the schools in their own cars — mostly in the city — others get dropped and picked up in two-wheelers, auto-rickshaws and small vans. But a majority of them use buses and vans either operated by the schools themselves or in contracted vehicles. Be it government or private schools, a majority of the institutions has a strength of 1,000 to 3,000 in the city while it is around 1,200 to 1,800 in the suburbs.

The recent accidents, be it due to bad roads or over-speeding or overload, children suffered for no fault of theirs, parents say and expect the authorities to take stringent action against erring drivers. It would not only serve as a lesson to others not to violate rules but also send a strong signal that erring drivers would not be spared, they say.

Share auto-rickshaws and private mofussil buses were the root cause for most of the road accidents as they charge down the road in the opposite direction of a school van or bus in a rash manner, van drivers transporting children allege.

With Road Safety Week coming to an end on Saturday, Transport Department authorities have planned to swing into action.

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