Precious lives at stake as school vehicle safety goes neglected

KARACHI: Thousands of big and small school vehicles run in Karachi, but their safety is badly forgotten by the government regulatory authorities at the cost of innocent children, who lost lives in sad and tragic accidents of schools buses due to want of safety and precautionary measures.

School bus is undoubtedly the most convenient means of student transportation. But unfortunately, there are a number of safety issues faced by students travelling by school vehicles. However, the government, parents and civil society are least concerned to ensure safety of these school buses.

Even in neighboring country India there are strict security rules for the school vehicles .

For examples that are directives of the Supreme Court of India that words “School Bus” must be written on the back and front of the Bus.

If it is a hired bus, “On School Duty” should be clearly indicated Bus must have a First-Aid-Box.

The windows of Bus must be fitted with horizontal grills.

There must be a Fire Extinguisher in the Bus.

School Name and Telephone No. must be written on the Bus.

The doors of the Bus should be fitted with reliable locks.

To keep School Bags safely, there should be a space fitted under the seats.

There must be an Attendant from the School in the Bus. School cabs should be fit with speed governors with maximum speed limit of 40 kmph.

The body of school cab shall be highway yellow colour with a horizontal strip in green colour of 150mm width in the middle all around the vehicle and the words ‘SCHOOL CAB’ must be prominently displayed on all four sides of the vehicle.

If age of school children is below 12 years, the number of children carried shall not exceed 1½ times the permitted seating capacity. Children above 12 years shall be treated as one person.

The driver of a school cab must have valid license to drive LMV-Transport Vehicles for a period of at least four years and compulsorily wear a light blue shirt, light blue trousers and black shoes. His name ID be displayed on the shirt.

There must be enough space provided to keep school bags inside the vehicle and the bags should not be hung outside the vehicle or placed on roof carriers.

The bus driver must carry a complete list of the children being ferried in the school cab, indicating the name, class, residential address, blood group and the points of stoppage, route plan, etc.

In case of kindergarten, if an authorized person recognised mutually by the school and parents, does not come to pick the child from the halting points and such, the child shall be taken back to the school and their parents should be called.

Moreover, GPS and CCTV have been made compulsory in school buses. Installation of CCTV in school premises are made compulsory. The footage of the CCTV must be kept for 60 days and must be handed over to the police in case of any investigation purpose. 500 school bus cameras have been installed by the Bangalore Metropolitan Corporation. GPS has been declared compulsory by Central Board of Secondary Education.

School bus drivers are restricted to have interaction with students beyond a limit in school bus and socializing with students is also limited.

Entering school grounds are restricted to authorized people. Any person suspicious entering the school premises will be reported without fail.

ID cards are issued to parents, which must be bought while picking up their children. If they cannot come for picking up their children, an SMS must be send authorizing another person to pick them up.

Under section 188 Act of the Indian Penal Code, any failure on the school’s behalf to obey these new rules and regulations can lead to punishment.

The Standard Requirements for School Buses in India say that all school buses in India are mandated to have an external colour of Golden Yellow. This colour shall be as per IS 5 -1994 (as amended from time to time).

For Identification, a band of 150mm wide of ‘Golden Brown ‘colour might be provided on all sides of the bus below the window level.

Two emergency exits are mandatory on all school buses in India. One on the rear half of the bus on the right hand side and on the rear side of the bus. Children should be trained to operate these doors.

Whenever the bus passenger door or one of the emergency exits is open, the bus should be incapable of motion. The driver should get an indication of the doors being open by means of flashing light/buzzer or other suitable means.

The lowest footstep height shall not be more than 220mm from ground. The bus should be incapable of motion without folding or retracting the steps

All seats other than the ones facing the passenger step well should be forward facing. Also, a partition should be provided to the seat facing the step well.

Stopping signals, a hazard warning and a stop signal arm should operate whenever the passenger door opens.

A tamper-proof speed governor that complies with the requirements of Rule 118 of CMV (A)R 1989 should be provided to ensure the driver doesn’t cross the speed limit.

Any parent/guardian or a teacher may also travel to ensure these safety norms.

However, in our country, especially in Karachi there is no safety rule for the school vehicles that are mostly Suzuki vans, altered into the passenger vans and almost all of them are run on CNG with old and risky gas cylinders. Parents appeal the government authorities, as well as, our judiciary to take notice of these risky school buses and issues directives for improving their safety on war-footing basis.

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