32-year-old Sheela Ramlingam (name changed) did not think much about school bus service that her daughter would use almost daily. That is, till little Shalmali came home crying one day saying that driver uncle was driving so fast that she hit her head badly against the window when the bus braked.
Shalmali might have escaped with just a minor injury, but of late, the number of accidents involving school buses have increased, causing many parents of school-going children to feel concerned. Rash driving, absence of permits, irresponsible behaviour of the sub staff and using obsolete vehicles could cause harm to our children.
We often check and enquire whether a school is safe, but when it comes to the child’s transport from and to school, safety checks are neglected, as we feel that a child spends very less time in his/her school transport.
Now, the Bombay High court has stated that parents must consciously check if safety rules are being followed by vehicles dealing with ferrying school children. “Conscious awakening of parents has to be there for proper implementation of rules governing school bus safety,” the court observed.
A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice NW Sambre said, "It is not only up to a state government official sitting in his cabin. Even parents should be aware about the safety of a school bus."
These observations were made during hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO PTA United. The petition seeks the implementation of rules governing granting of permits to operate school buses.
Advocate Rama Subramaniam argued that the government is not implementing the rules properly, and thus there are increasing accidents involving school buses.
According to her, as per definition of a school bus, a vehicle having seating capacity of over 13 seats can operate as a school bus. However, even rickshaws and Maruti vans are used as school buses.
The transport department filed an affidavit saying that until December 31, 2017, a total of 16,619 vehicles having seating capacity less than 13 are registered in the state as school buses.
The court insisted that buses must compulsorily be installed with CCTV cameras and must have GPS trackers to ensure safety. While not all schools might be able to ensure that this is achieved, we can hope that someday, all means of school transport are subjected to stringent checks to make travel safer.
Also read: Is Your Child's School Bus Safe?
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