WITH the Lokayukta’s sword hanging over their head, the state transport department has decided to carry out an audit of motor driving schools. The department has selected a private agency, International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) for carrying out the audit. There are around 135 motor driving schools in the state, which will undergo thorough scrutiny from September onwards. Though it is mandatory for the department to periodically check the functioning of and facilities at driving schools, they are seldom done and licences for operations are generally renewed without inquiry. After receiving complaints of deficiencies in driving schools and malpractices by them the Lokayukta set up an investigating team to do preliminary inquiries. The team found that no checks were being carried on the functioning of the driving schools. The team found many deficiencies in their operations. The Lokayukta team observed that many of the driving schools did not have adequate infrastructure to provide professional training sessions to learners. They did not maintain register books with number and details of persons taking driving lessons.
Driving schools are supposed to not only impart driving skills to trainees but also instruct them on traffic rules, but they do not do either properly. They focus on giving on-road practical training and helping learners get a licence at the earliest. Driving schools need to impart education on traffic rules, to inculcate a sense of road discipline among students. They need to instruct them in giving first aid before starting with on-road practical training. A driving school should be the first place where a person learns safe driving practices, beginning from opening the car door (driver’s side) for the first time, till they can confidently drive on crowded city streets and highways and through hilly terrain. Students have to be taught about causes of accidents and how to prevent them as also about ways of saving fuel. The transport department should frame a complete and comprehensive course for driving schools incorporating all the instructions mentioned above and much more. The owners of driving schools must be coached and motivated to produce fully skilled and disciplined drivers.
If road discipline lies in trash bins today, driving schools have to share the blame. The proliferation in the number of vehicles and spasmodic, ineffective enforcement of traffic rules has made the situation worse. Greater demand for cars has meant greater demand for driving licences, which has in turn meant greater number of driving schools. Owing to demand on the time of instructors, on-road training sessions have been reduced to half an hour per working day and spread over a month, excluding Sundays and holidays, which are inadequate to groom new drivers into all aspects of driving. Advent of vehicles with power steering and automated clutch and gears has made driving easier. However, owing to the large number of vehicles on roads, drivers need to drive with caution and patience, for which a good training and grooming by driving schools is necessary.
Obtaining a driving licence was stringent in the olden days involving a rigorous test. However when factors other than test work, thanks to the nexus between owners of driving schools and corrupt transport officials, licence can come without proper learning and discipline. No wonder rash driving, drunken driving, talking on phone while driving are common. Road rage is taking the place of old-fashioned patience. To ensure road discipline and safety the government needs to redraw the licensing policy and incorporate psychometric screening of personality traits of the drivers, especially those caught for rule breaking, road rage, alcohol abuse, etc for suspension or cancellation of licence. Motor driving schools must be made to play a role in shaping up future drivers. The government must make it mandatory that each school has a simulator where students can learn how to drive a car and get familiar with the steering wheel, gears, clutch, brakes, etc, before trying to drive one on the road. This would help the drivers to acquire skills and prepare themselves for problems they would face on the roads. As road practice is very important for learning to drive responsibly the government should frame a course and ensure that the driving schools strictly follow it. The transport department must make the licensing procedure corruption-free and stringent. Let us hope the owners of driving schools reincarnate themselves and start thinking of their institutes as a place where the foundations of skilled, responsible and safe driving are laid.