Calamity around the corner: How safe is your ride with an unverified driver?

The recent case of a seven year old Delhi school girl paying the price of riding with a rash van driver with her life is another tragic reminder of how things can go from customary to catastrophic in a matter of seconds. This is not just the case of a school van ramming into a truck, but in fact, a scary warning about leaving our fate in unsafe hands while taking a ride. The accident, which also left 17 other children critically injured, is yet another addition to the many risks that we and our children are exposed to while availing the services of a driver with tainted records – be it in a school van or elsewhere. For instance, the way this driver threw caution to the wind while driving a dangerously overloaded vehicle on the wrong side hardly had any room left to avoid an imminent casualty. Add to that, the fact that the driver had been booked thrice previously for charges like overcrowding, jumping a red light and driving an unregistered vehicle makes it only worse.

The law clearly lists out many guidelines for school drivers regarding permissible seating capacity and other safety mechanism, but the statistics of only a fraction of them actually abiding by those rules paint a terrible picture – both for the parents and the school. As much as this poses a threat to the children’s life, it translates to besmirching the school’s reputation just that much. The popular opinion of high-profile schools being risk-proof here has also been shredded to pieces after many of them regularly coming under scanner for their crumbling security, one incident at a time. Though a mishap can’t always be controlled or stopped, but some degree of preparedness can help ward it off or at least mitigate the loss.  Even if you outsource the service provider for transportation, you cannot wish away the risk that it comes with, more so with an outsourced agency where you have less control.

A simple background verification on the driver could have revealed his past traffic violations and unregistered vehicle, and perhaps the unfortunate incident could have been averted. The past records can reveal a lot – what sort of professional the employee has been, why were they removed from the previous organisation – which will make the picture clearer for the employer. Also, the responsibility of ferrying children to and fro should only be trusted with staff from authorised agencies.

We did a recent study where we verified the DLs of drivers across 300 schools in the country, and found that a staggering 32% of them had fake DLs (where details on the card do not match the records with the transportation department)

Another important issue is that of training. 80% of the people employed are not skilled for the job. For example. – The driver of a vehicle transporting schools children has to be much more alert and law abiding than a taxi driver or an ambulance driver. Safety is much much more important than urgency.  He also needs to know how to and how not to interact with the children. A high percentage of the non-teaching staff in schools lack the skills when it comes to safety and security.

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