Recently, four school students were injured in an accident in Noida near the DND flyover. It turned out that the driver had not attained the permissible age for driving. Not only this, father of the 17-year-old boy who was driving the car came to the spot and took away his son, leaving the other injured on the road.
One of the students, Shiv Bhargav, an 18-year-old student of Delhi Public School (DPS), Noida was seriously injured in the accident. According to his parents, Kanav Malhotra, who was driving the car, was underage and inebriated. Kanav had been gifted the car by his parents on his 15th birthday. This is not the first time that an underage behind the wheels has become the cause of a serious road accident. What is more shocking is the support they receive from their parents.
Metrolife explores how parents are the prime cause of road accidents by letting their children drive before they turn 18. Prince Singhal, founder Community Against Drunken Driving (CADD) has some horrific statistics to share. He says, “Of all the road safety violators, at least 70 per cent are underage drivers!
“With below 18 behind the wheels, it gets more risky because they are usually unaware of the road safety measures and have no respect for pedestrians. Their parents are the first ones to be blamed because they gift them cars, scooters and bikes when they are just 13 or 14,” he says.
“They own expensive cars and know that on being caught, either bribing or their parents will come to rescue - as it happened in the Noida case. I think there should be specific drives for underage drivers and their parents should be penalised too,” says Prince.
Delhi Traffic Police says it does not compile data specifically on underage drivers but drives – to check them, are a routine practice.
Anita Roy, Additional DCP, Traffic, says, “In case of underage drivers, their parents are responsible. So, they are called and the vehicle seized. What I have encountered is that parents are not fulfilling their responsibility and this is across class barrier.”
However, underage drivers say they are seldom intercepted by traffic police officials, asked for their age proof or licence. Dhruv Mukherjee* (17), a Std XII student has been driving since he was 13. “In the last six years, I have rarely been stopped by the police. If ever they ask for my licence, I conveniently say ‘I left it at home’.”
Ask him if his parents don’t discourage him, he answers with pride, “It was my father who taught me driving when I was in Std VI. After a year or so I started ferrying them.”
Some try to justify their act and shield the role of their parents in encouraging them to drive. Saurav Kashyap, a young businessman, says, “My parents always asked me not to drive until I turn 18 but I would sneak out when they were not home. I learned driving from my friends, who were of my age, when I was in school.”
However, it is difficult to believe that parents are in the dark when their children are out with their car. Some parents also encourage underage driving by accompanying them. Bhumika, has been driving since Std VIII, says, “Parents always think that it good that their children can drive as early as possible. They feel it is a help at times. When I used to drive before 18, my father would remain with me always. But yes, there were times when I drove alone too.”
* Name changed on request