Although the legal age for driving is 18, it is a well known fact that younger teens take to it much earlier, exposing themselves and other road users to danger. The recent car crash involving eight teens has only confirmed these fears. Who should be held responsible for the tragic accident? How can we prevent underage driving?
Saturday’s accident, where eight second-PU students went on a joyride in which three were killed and three others were grievously injured and left battling for their lives, clearly exposes the dangerous, wayward driving habits of young people especially on rural roads and highways.
“We have been penalising underage students for reckless two-wheeler riding and driving at every school and college in our jurisdiction, but they pay the fine and somehow manage to hoodwink the police the next time. Since Nandi Hills is the closest tourist destination from the area, many students ride or drive to the spot, especially on weekends,” a senior police officer from Channarayapatna rural police station told Deccan Chronicle.
“We have been seizing the vehicles that are ridden/driven by underage persons, penalise them, call for their parents and counsel them before sending them off, but students somehow manage to find their way out again,” said the officer. He added that since it’s a highway, vehicles will be travelling at good speed and they cannot intercept any vehicle for speeding.
Konappa Reddy, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Doddaballapur sub-division, told Deccan Chronicle that he is going to put up a speed interceptor before the the accident spot near Manchappanahalli in Budigere cross, to check vehicle speed and avoid further accidents.
“Since it’s a narrow road and there is a slight hump due to a storm water drain going across the road beneath it, we are also going to put up a sign board saying ‘accident prone area.’ Drivers should take caution and slow down. We will also write to the Public Works Department (PWD) to analyze if there are any defects in the road gradient and which can be rectified, as at some stretches of the road, there are steep curves,” said Mr. Konappa Reddy.
“I have seen numerous accidents in my 25 years of service. I have even seen 18 people killed in one accident in Hoskote, but I have not seen anything like this accident in my life. The car had rammed into the tree, breaking it and then crashed into a boulder with such force that there are remnants of the car still lying at the spot of the accident. Imagine the speed with which it must have collided,” the DySP said.
One more student dies
Srinivasa Bhat, 17, who was in a vegetative, coma state, died at a private hospital in Indiranagar on Sunday, bringing the Budigere-Devanhalli Cargo road accident death toll to three. The second PU student from Silicon City College, who was declared brain dead on Saturday, breathed his last on Sunday around 3:00 p.m. at the MediHope Hospital in New Tippasandra.
His body was shifted to Victoria Hospital where a post-mortem was done on Monday. Three other students are still in a critical condition, battling for their lives, Sheshadri and Manikumar in Sathya Sai Multispecialty Hospital in Battrahalli and Kiran Kumar P. at NIMHANS in the city.
Sheshadri, one of the three grievously injured, underwent an emergency surgery for his huge clot in the brain on Saturday night and is said to be stable, but still in critical condition, his doctor said. Manikumar has sustained facial fractures and is on a ventilator, the doctor added. Both the students are undergoing treatment at the Sathya Sai Hospital. “Kiran Kumar P. who had lung injuries and brain injuries was taken by his parents to NIMHANS after leaving the Sathya Sai Hospital against medical advice on Sunday. His condition is very critical,” said Dr. Mahesh M.N., Medical Director, Sathya Sai Hospital to Deccan Chronicle.
An underage teenage driver from Christ University, Risabh A.K, sneaked out his father’s car on December 4 and met with an accident, losing control and ramming into an electric pole after the car was hit by another car that was taking a turn. The accident happened at about 2:30 a.m. in H.S.R. Layout.
College closed on Monday
Silicon City PU College was closed on Monday, to mourn the deaths of two of their second PU students Kiran Kumar S, and Srinivasa Bhat, who died in the car accident on Saturday. “It’s an unfortunate and painful incident for all of us. We are all shocked and unable to say anything,” said Dr. H.M. Chandrashekhar, Chairman of Silicon City College.
Teenage car driving rampant in the city
There is no doubt that underage driving is on the rise in the city and the recent deaths have only confirmed that. While a person above 16 years of age can apply for a learner’s license for a two-wheeler without gear and below 50 cc, there is absolutely no compromise in imparting licenses for four wheelers — where one has be 18 years of age. Despite the strict laws in place, teenage four-wheeler driving is rampant in the city.
Joint Commissioner of Bengaluru urban Narendra Holkar points out, “Although provision is there to give a license to those above 16 years if the person fulfills the given criteria, nowadays nobody applies under the rule as production of 50cc vehicles have almost stopped. In case any teenager below 18 years is found driving, the penalty is Rs 1500 and the person to whom the vehicle belongs is held liable.”
Expressing a similar opinion, Ramegowda, the Transport commissioner says, “One has to be 18 years of age to drive a four-wheeler and the rules are not at all flexible in this case.”
In the US, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 20-year-olds, accounting for 27 deaths per a population of 100,000 where youngsters between 14 and 18 years can obtain a licence. Due to the grim situation, the American Academy of Pediatrics brought out guidelines that include a graduated licensing system, curbs on night-time driving and longer duration of driving lessons.
Experts and citizens feel parents should be held responsible for offences committed by their children. Rajeev B says, “Only parents and nobody else can put a stop to these activities. Nowadays families have more than one vehicle and children want to drive them, but it the parents who should guide them. In fact, I feel whenever the police come across such teen drivers, the parent’s licence should also be cancelled.”
While many feel the age for imparting licenses should be increased to 21, Rajat Bakshi, a commuter, says, “Even a 21-year-old can cause such accidents. The problems of reckless and drunk driving can be checked by other means. Police patrolling at night can be increased; every highway should be given a moderate speed limit, etc. Besides, not all the college-going students are comfortable with public transport.”
Police vigil lacking
The number of vehicles on the roads leading to Hoskote, Nelamangala, Bidadi, Kanakapura, Bannerghatta, Tavarekere, Anekal and Doddaballpura is increasing every day. There is a general complaint that the police visibility and vigil in these rural areas is less when compared to the city. As a large number of people, including teens and college students, drive on these roads, it is important that the police should have regular checks on speeding vehicles. There is a need to provide more staff and facilities to the rural police to avoid such accidents in future.
Download the all new Deccan Chronicle app for Android and iOS to stay up-to-date with latest headlines and news stories in politics, entertainment, sports, technology, business and much more from India and around the world.