Where’s the Seat Belt? How Safe is Your Child Traveling in a School Bus in the City?

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Where’s the Seat Belt? How Safe is Your Child Traveling in a School Bus in the City?

Mangaluru: For most parents, sending their children to school by school bus has become the norm now. Gone are the days when children used to walk or travelled in auto-rickshaws or cycled to school. With roads getting crowded, parents are looking for a safe door-to-door bus ride for their children. When you get in your car, you buckle up for safety, and if you’re a parent, you make sure your children are buckled up, as well. But if you’re a parent, do you wonder about your children as they board the big yellow school bus in the morning? How safe are they aboard that big bus, particularly if the bus—like most—has no seat belts for its passengers?

During the school year, thousands and thousands of elementary and secondary school children ride a bus to and from school. Like any form of vehicular transportation, accidents involving school buses are inevitable. Other than road accidents, Each year, school children can be injured when riding the bus, getting on or off the bus, or standing near the bus. A survey states that about 25 percent of injuries involve getting on or off the school bus, but everyone takes it easy. Parents, too, can do a lot to help prevent accidents near the school bus. They can keep an eye on children waiting for the bus or departing the bus. And they can teach them several simple rules to keep them safe. Children should stay 10 feet away from the bus, or as far away as they can, and never walk behind it. They should take five giant steps in front of the bus before crossing, so they can be seen by the driver.

Hardly any of the school buses in the City have seat belts, even though it’s not been made compulsory- but looking at the video of a school bus involved in an accident in Bengaluru on 9 July which went viral during the weekend, proves injuries could be more in the absence of seat belts. As per the report in Indian Express dated 14 July about the accident in Bengaluru, it states – A child and a woman attender of a school had a miraculous escape after a speeding tempo crashed into their school bus on Bannerghatta and Jigani Road. The incident occurred on July 9, and the mishap, which was caught on a CCTV camera installed on the bus, went viral on Saturday. The woman attender showed the great presence of mind as she rescued the child, despite being tossed violently (as seen in the video), immediately after the tempo crashed into the bus”.

“Bannerghatta police, who have registered a case, said at 8.50 am, the school bus — belonging to Ryan International School, Bannerghatta — was picking up children. At that time, only the child and the woman attender, Sathyavathi, were in the bus. When the bus was passing through Raagihalli Gate, a speeding tempo came from the left and rammed into it. The bus toppled in the middle of the road and Sathyavathi, who was violently tossed, fell near the child. Remarkably, she kept her wits about her and grabbed the child and came out of the bus. Passersby tried to catch the driver of the tempo and gave a chase, but he managed to flee”

“The police have yet to arrest him and they have established his identity after the incident. Speaking to media, school bus driver Gopal, who was injured in the incident, said, “I was going to Begenahalli to pick up six children and the boy, Keerthan, had boarded the bus just five minutes back. My wife Sathyavathi and I have been working at the school for eight years. We both sustained injuries when the bus was toppled. I do not know why the driver of the tempo is still at large and he was not able to control the vehicle since I did not notice his speeding tempo. I have yet to come out from the shock as I was stuck between the steering and driver’s seat for a while. Passersby rescued me by pulling the seat” as per the newspaper.

By the way, looking at the video, one can notice that the woman attender was sitting on another seat, while the child was in a playful mood on a different seat. Isn’t it the duty of the woman attender to concentrate on the safety of the child? And that exactly what you see in the majority of the school buses in the City here. You could witness children jumping and playing inside the bus, while the conductor or care taker will be busy on their mobile phones. It’s only during Traffic Safety Month that our police authorities check into all the school Bus safety norms, and? once that Safety Month is over- no one is worried until the next Traffic Safety Month?

Many times when RTO does a random check, the majority of these school buses are being booked for poor functioning of hand brakes, poor tyres, and bad quality of seats- and still, they were operating. Some buses will be booked for defective emergency doors and fire extinguishers (if they have) beyond their expiry date. Then the RTO gives warning to the school committee and a week’s time to fix the deficiencies- if they do it, it’s well and good, but if they don’t, no one cares.

Sources reveal that there are 25 mandatory criteria for issuing the fitness certificate for school buses. The 25 mandatory parameters include installation of emergency exit doors, fire extinguishers, speed governors to prevent rash driving, sticking of the schoolbus symbol, putting window grills on both sides, provisioning of racks for keeping school bags under the seats and installation of the first-aid box. The officials will check whether the driver has at least five years experience. The credentials of the attendants will be checked. Is the procedure is followed in Mangaluru, God only knows?

This is the reason why the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and CBSE board of India have issued guidelines to safeguard children commuting by school buses. A preventive measure, the rulebook is to make both, school and parents proactive towards remedial measures towards the safe commutation of school children. Following are the top 10 school bus safety rules which every parent should ensure, before sending their children to school by bus –

– School buses should be painted yellow. There should be a signpost of “School Bus” both, on the front and back of the bus along with the name of the school and its address. If it is a hired bus, “On School Duty” should be clearly visible.

– Details of the driver (name, address, license number, badge number), school contact number, transport department’s helpline number, vehicle registration number should be displayed at prominent places inside and outside the bus in contrast color.

– School Bus should have a First Aid Box and Fire Extinguisher which should be routinely checked for expiry dates. Also, driver, conductor, lady attendant/guard should be well trained to use them.

– Global Positioning System (GPS), CCTV cameras and white lighting should be installed inside the bus. These instruments should be in working condition all the time.

– School Bus should be tailored with a maximum speed limit of 40 km/h. The school bus should possess an alarm bell and siren for alarming emergency situations.

– The windows of the school bus should be fitted with horizontal grills and mesh wires; also the windows should not be fitted with curtains or glasses having films. The seats must be of noncombustible materials for children safety.

– The doors should be fitted with reliable locks that can be locked. Emergency exit doors should also be installed in the bus.

– To keep the schoolbags and water bottles safely, there should be enough space either under the seats or in a convenient place inside the bus.

-There must be a well-trained female attendant and a bus conductor to attend the school children and ensure their safe boarding and overall safety during the entire journey. Also, they should ensure that under no circumstances any outsider shall be allowed to board the school bus.

– There should be at least one parent/guardian/teacher voluntarily present, to oversee the conduct of driver and other staff along with the overall safety measures in the bus.

So, how many of the school buses operating in the City are following the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court and CBSE board of India- NOT MANY or PROBABLY NONE? God is the ONLY answer!

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