Unsafe commute: Since Jan, 57 Delhi school buses challaned
If you think signing your child up for a school bus service will ensure their safe commute, think again. This year, between January 1 and July 31, at least 57 schools buses were pulled up for different violations across the city.
Delhi traffic police data shows that of the 57 fines issued to school bus drivers, including those of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses that get affiliated with schools, at least 18 were for speeding while 25 of these drivers were caught rash driving. The other buses were fined for jumping signals or lane violations.
Hence, the Delhi traffic police have written to schools across the city pointing out instances of bus drivers driving in a rash manner or speeding while plying children. Police have also asked schools to follow guidelines and ensure every bus has the school’s name and number prominently displayed on the body of the vehicle so that one can report when the driver indulges in rash driving.
Last year, the traffic police had fined 186 school bus drivers for speeding, rash driving and violations. Traffic police officers said the numbers have been increasing over the years. “Last year, the increase of bus drivers caught for traffic violations was over 50% in comparison to 2017. In 2017, 123 such fines were issued. We are working to reduce the number this year,” a senior traffic police officer, who did not wish to be named, said.
The traffic police have also started coordinating with school administrations to tighten the noose on the erring drivers. Apart from this, police have also started conducting classes for drivers who drive vehicles ferrying school children.
“In Delhi, the need for safe commuting options for school children becomes more pertinent mainly because children travel long distances to go to schools of their choice. We are regularly challaning these erring drivers, but there needs to be a plan from the government to provide safe travel options to parents,” said Kannan Jagadeesan, joint commissioner of police (traffic).
Jagadeesan said many parents consider school buses a better option compared to hiring private services such as vans and mini buses, which run the risk of overloading the vehicles and engaging in other unsafe practices such as seating children in boots with CNG cylinders.
Prithvi Singh Chauhan, president of Association for Parents of Private Schools (west Delhi chapter), said that schools often don’t get involved in school bus operations, which gives a free hand to contractors and drivers.
“Many schools do not have their own school bus fleet and give the transport management task to private agencies and operators to manage. Many drivers are not properly trained but they go scot free unless a major mishap hits the news. Despite the higher cost, we enrol our children in school buses to ensure that they travel between home and school safely and schools need to take responsibility for this,” Chauhan said.
The national capital reports a high number of fatal road accidents. In 2018, 1562 fatal accidents were reported across the city, where 1604 people lost their lives. In 2017, 1565 accidents killed 1584 people.
Apart from the Motor Vehicles Act, the school buses are also bound by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) School Transport Guidelines that was revised this year. As per the guidelines, the school bus drivers should not exceed a speed limit of 40km per hour, wear uniforms and ensure the maintenance of vehicles regularly.
Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu School in Rohini, said that the school administration makes sure to check the licenses and badges of drivers before children board buses.
“We also get their police verification done to check their professional history. We also cross check from their previous employee of their violation history. We also maintain files of their records and documents in our school as well,” Arora said.