Millennium Post

Children at risk

If you think hiring an auto-rickshaw, school bus, van and rickshaw will be a safe mode of transport to drop your children to school, think again. You may be putting your children at the mercy of the drivers of the cab.

Stuffing 15-17 students in private vans and autos and overcrowded school buses is a common phenomenon here in national capital region schools. This has been a reason for the parents to feel scared for their children. The overloaded vans, buses and autos have been the reasons for many accidents in the region.

To deal with the problem, many concerned parents opted for the smart mini vans that ferry children to school and back as they don’t have any option but to trust these mini vans and autos. However, their hopes of providing safety failed when they saw the way theses vehicles were being driven. These vans often put the safety of the children inside into serious jeopardy.

They cabbies often take benefit as they are not stopped by traffic police for over-speeding or rash driving as even the police think that if they stop them, the children will get late for school or home.
‘There is also the problem of shortage of school buses in the city as a result some school opt for auto-rickshaws, vans and rickshaws but in the process they end up compromising the safety of the children by stuffing the kids in beyond permissible limits.  Police, school authority and transport department have to take some steps to avoid any accident,’ said Pankaj Sharma, a parent told Millennium Post

However, the Supreme Court guidelines with respect to school buses are required to be complied with completely by all the transporters. The Supreme Court had in a civil writ (No. 13029) of 1985 and then in subsequent orders noted that windows of educational institution vehicles be fitted with horizontal grills. It had said that a school bus must have a first-aid box; there must be a fire extinguisher in it; the doors should be fitted with reliable locks; school bags should be kept safely, there should be a space fitted under the seats; there must be an attendant from the school in the bus; and any parent/guardian or a teacher may also travel to ensure these safety norms.

The court had also set the speed limit at 40 km per hour for such vehicles and noted that in case of school buses too show-cause notices would be issued for the first violation and driving licence of the driver would be cancelled for the second violation.

As per the guidelines, only drivers having five years of experience will be allowed to drive school buses and vans. Any driver who is challaned more than twice in a calendar year on account of violations such as overtaking, jumping of red light and violating parking regulations will not be allowed to drive school buses.

The court also instructed that drivers will have to wear a uniform and must display their identity cards visibly while driving the vehicles. The name of the owner of the vehicle must also figure in the card. Further, school buses must display prominently that they are being used for ferrying school children.

‘The speed of the vehicles has already been fixed at 40 km per hour and a driver in violation of the speed limit will first be issued notices while a second time offence would attract cancellation of the driving licence,’ said a senior traffic police official.

On the other hand, a van driver on the condition of anonymity, said that in a van and auto around 12 children can sit easily, so they must get some relief from the police and school authority to run their cab.

Meanwhile a senior traffic police official said that traffic police has been imposing fine on such drivers, but schools managament and transport department should keep eyes on such operators and drivers for the safety of innocent children.
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