The ‘Safe Route to School’ programme that was put into motion since May this year, seems to have shown no improvement when it comes to the question of road safety of schoolchildren and college students in the city. A recent accident at JSS Academy of Technical Education, saw the college bus toppling over at Uttarahalli-Kengeri Road, injuring thirty two students and two staffers. “The bus toppled because of failed brakes. All our buses carry fitness certificates and are in proper condition. We run four plus one buses and we have outsourced our bus services to Vinayaka Tours and Travels. After the accident, we have asked them to check all their buses thoroughly for any malfunctions, but they all seem to be fine,” says Mrithyunjaya V Lathe, Principal, JSSATE.
According to traffic police records, there have been 16 accidents involving school buses between January 2013 and September 2013, compared to the eleven accidents in the entire year of 2012. Although the deaths have decreased by a margin (3 deaths in 2013 and 4 in 2012), the number of children who sustained injuries has increased significantly, with 53 children getting injured this year, compared to the eighteen schoolchildren last year. In addition to this, in the last five months, almost 2811 cases have been booked against various school buses for violating the the Supreme Court’s guidelines regarding school buses.
Although many schools outsource transport, B Dayananda, additional commissioner of police (traffic) says that the police interact only with the school authorities. “They are the people who are responsible. We have already sent out notices to them about the necessary regulations, the violation of which will attract a fine of `500. Our officers are continually keeping a tab on the situation - while some schools have implemented them, others are taking their own time. I think we have given them enough time,” he says, indicating that the police is planning to crack down on those who have failed to abide by the required guidelines.
However, as a result of the guidelines and the subsequent enforcement by the Traffic Department, some of the companies that provide school buses have started to take their jobs seriously “We educate our drivers about the guidelines every quarter regarding various issues like handling children, how to drop them off, how to take care of the younger children, maintenance of the buses, etc.
"We make sure we have weekly meeting with all the drivers where we address their complaints, we also talk to them about the feedback by the parents over the week, if any,” says Santosh Kumar B, manager, Sam Tours and Travels, who provides drivers to National Public School. According to him, they make sure that they also address behavioural issues of the drivers by bringing in experts once a year. They also hold seminars on the importance of drivers’ behaviour towards children.
Sahana Vijay, a mother of an eight-year-old boy, who attends St Patrick’s Academy, is fairly happy with the school bus services. “The school seems to have outsourced the bus services to a private company, but they’re doing the job well. We make an annual payment of Rs 13,000 for the bus services.
The drivers and the attendants usually make sure that they drop the children right outside the gate. But there have been times when they dropped the kids off even when the parents were not present. My son usually manages to get home fine, but this might be a problem with the younger kids. However, I’ve not heard of any of the other parents complaining so far,” says Sahana.