School bus safety in Abu Dhabi is a priority

Road experts say parents, transport companies, drivers and schools each have responsibilities to ensure the wellbeing of their young passengers.

Emirates Transport is one of the partners in the school safety campaign. The company provides more than 2,000 buses in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // Road-safety experts have spelt out the responsibilities carried by schools, and bus companies and drivers to keep their young passengers safe.

They say companies must ensure their drivers are well versed in road safety and understand and obey the traffic rules, experts say.

And schools and transport providers should make sure buses are not overloaded and are well-maintained.

“Driver training and licensing should be of high standard,” said Dino Kalivas, chairman of driver education and training at the International Road Federation.

“Bus drivers should be well-regulated and ensure that the laws are enforced.”

School bus drivers should also assess their own driving and always look to improve their skills, said Glenn Havinoviski, a transport expert in Abu Dhabi.

“Speeding is an occasional issue that I see on the roads,” Mr Havinoviski said.

“Very often on their breaks, school bus drivers simply park on the side of the road, their flashers on and the stop sign extended from the bus as though they are picking up children.

“If this happens often enough, other drivers will ignore the indicators because they know the driver is not picking up children.”

Last month, Abu Dhabi Police’s traffic department urged schools and transport providers not to overload buses and ensure there was sufficient seating for pupils.

It warned of stronger traffic controls near schools as part of its "Your Safety is Our Concern" campaign.

“Traffic safety is not the responsibility of one entity, but is a rather integrated process,” Brig Hussain Al Harthi, director of Abu Dhabi Police traffic and patrols directorate said.

“The family is responsible for taking care of their children and for protecting them from being exposed to traffic accidents. The school is responsible for promoting a culture of traffic awareness.

“Drivers are responsible for paying attention while on the road and need to pay attention to students who are frequently on the road, as they are in school in the morning and afternoon.”

Emirates Transport is one of the partners in the school safety campaign, said Abdullah Al Ghafli, executive director of the school transport section.

“Emirates Transport strongly enforces all related safety regulations so overcrowding of school buses is not an issue,” Mr Al Ghafli said.

“We also have regular and thorough maintenance technical inspection systems for all our buses.

“This process is completed in-house in coordination with the school transport and auto maintenance services divisions.”

Emirates Transport provides 4,244 buses for public schools in the UAE. Of those, 2,032 are in Abu Dhabi.

It operates 60-seat buses and smaller buses with capacity for 21 to 34 pupils.

Of the 4,200 school bus drivers who work for Emirates Transport, 2,000 are based in Abu Dhabi.

Courses offered to drivers include traffic safety awareness, adhering to rules, emergency procedures and commitment to passenger safety.

Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE, said bus drivers must immediately report to their employers if they are too tired to drive a bus responsibly.

“Bus operators must set a framework of work policies including maximum operating hours a day and per driver to guarantee safety,” Mr Edelmann said.

Fatigue is a hidden killer globally, Mr Kalivas warned.

“On average, 20 per cent of all collisions are attributed to driver fatigue and this is equal to other factors, such as drink driving and speeding,” he said.

Bus companies should also provide male and female supervisors to accompany pupils and ensure they are not dropped off on the opposite side of the road from which they live, Brig Al Harthi said.

Emirates Transport ensures that a supervisor is available on each bus, Mr Al Ghafli said.

It has 1,480 supervisors working for Ministry of Education buses and 2,263 on Abu Dhabi Education Council buses.