In 2003, Sumana Narayanan, a senior researcher at the Citizens Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), faced a rigorous driving test to obtain a four-wheeler driving license in Chennai. Demonstrating his driving skills on a narrow road near Thiruvanmiyur Regional Transport Office (RTO), he had to cover a distance of at least 300 metres. Sumana's test consisted of stopping at a traffic signal, taking a left turn and covering a distance of 200 metres.
In contrast, two decades later, Ram* took his driving test at the same Thiruvanmiyur RTO. Their test was very simple, consisting only of driving 100 meters on a straight road. Since the car's engine had already been started by the previous applicant, Ram only needed to smoothly switch the gear from neutral to first and drive a short distance before being told to stop.
Although Ram passed the exam and got his driving license after a month's training at a driving school, he did not have the confidence to drive independently on the roads of Chennai. Attempting to drive his friend's car after his license made him realize that he was not prepared enough to drive on real roads without supervision.
The contrasting experiences of Sumana and Ram highlight the growing discrepancies in the way driving licenses are awarded in Chennai, potentially leading to the issuance of licenses to individuals who may not be able to drive.
The issue becomes all the more acute given Chennai's position as the city with the second highest number of road accidents in India, based on National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data in recent years. The need for a more stringent and thorough driving license examination process to enhance overall road safety in the city is evident, stressing the importance of ensuring that only qualified and competent drivers are allowed to ply on the roads.
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