120816. Cape Town. Traffic officials arrested three taxi drivers for transporting kids without licenses and unroadworthy vechiles. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus. Reporter Ilse Fredericks

Cape Town - Transport MEC Robin Carlisle has called on parents to check the vehicles that transport their children to school.

The call was made on Thursday during an early morning operation in Zonnebloem where four drivers were arrested while on their way to drop children at city schools.

The drivers didn’t have operating licences, said traffic services spokeswoman Merle Lourens.

She said four vehicles were suspended, including vehicles where the seatbelts and backrests of seats had been removed, possibly to allow for more children to be transported.

Some of the vehicles also had defective brakes while in at least one case children would not have been able to use the emergency exit.

“We will continue to conduct such operations in future,” said Lourens. Transport was arranged for the children to their various schools. “Parents need to physically go and check the vehicles,” Carlisle said.

In October 2010, the Cape Argus also joined provincial and city traffic authorities during a joint operation at the same spot in Zonnebloem. The driver of a taxi loaded with 35 children was arrested during that operation.

Seven children had been squeezed on to the front seat of the vehicle, a Toyota Quantum, and another 28 in the back, with some balancing on seats held up by beer crates.

The driver of another vehicle, which was also transporting pupils, was arrested for drunk driving.

Carlisle, who was also present at the 2010 operation, said there had been “a huge improvement” since then.

“I have no doubt that these kinds of operations help.”

August 25 will mark the two-year anniversary of the crash at the Buttskop level crossing in which 10 children died, while next Friday marks the first anniversary of the Rheenendal bus tragedy. Fourteen pupils from Rheenendal Primary and their bus driver died when their bus plunged into a river outside Knysna.

Earlier this week, the Western Cape Education Department said no accidents involving vehicles from the department’s pupil transport scheme had been reported this year. - Cape Argus