The state government has instructed motor training schools to install simulators for a licence to continue operations.
Motor vehicle inspectors will visit training schools under their respective jurisdictions to check if they are equipped with simulators.
The licence to operate a motor training school will either be issued or renewed based on the findings of the inspectors, which would include the state of facilities on offer for students and the absence or presence of a simulator, the state government has decided.
"Some schools are equipped with a simulator. But several aren't. That can't be. We have informed the schools registered with us that they will have to use simulators for training drivers," a senior transport department official said.
A simulator is designed in a way that it comes fitted with controls that mimic the real car. Officials of the transport department said that a simulator allows a learner to practice as if he or she is commanding a real car from the driver's seat. Once a learner has got a fair idea of different controls, including accelerator, brakes and clutch on the simulator, it will become easier for him or her to pick up the nuances of real-life driving with a trainer on the roads, they added.
"The Union ministry of road transport and highway has specified that simulators are a must for all driving schools. This was around two years back," the official said. "We have reminded the schools about this specification and how it is mandatory."
The ministry, in its guidelines on accreditation of driving schools, has said that the state governments will be responsible for developing "a mechanism for granting accreditation to eligible driving training centres" and "install audit and review mechanisms for quality assurance".
Among the several motor training schools across the city that claim to offer simulator facilities in their ads, Metro spoke to one in Ultadanga on Monday.
The online ad says "simulator training available" and in business "for 17 years".
A staff member said the cost of getting the training varies between Rs 7,000 and Rs 8,000 depending on the choice of vehicle, Swift Dzire or Honda City. "You will have to attend 25 classes with 4km of training every day between 7am and 5 pm," he said.
What about the simulator?
"We are yet to start that facility. It will start soon," he said.
Senior officials said besides the use of a simulator, inspectors visiting driving schools will also check facilities, including infrastructure for classrooms, the type of vehicles being used for training and whether the trainer is qualified to impart lessons to learners.
Motor training schools have been provided with a syllabus, drawn up by a team of experts from IIT Kharagpur in 2017 for the transport department, with specific chapters on the basics of driving that need to be taught to students who enrol for classes.
Some chapters dwell on subjects like road markings, accidents and emergency intervention, basics of first-aid, traffic fines and vulnerable road persons that explain what drivers can do to avoid accidents involving pedestrians.
"The audit and inspection will help us understand whether those who were passing out from these schools have adequate knowledge of driving or not," the official said.