Accidents and near-misses on roads near schools have pushed the issue of school safety into public view. In March, Sheikha Eissa, an elected member of the Federal National Council from Umm Al Quwain, called on the Minister of Education, Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qattami, to delay the start of school hours in winter, as a way of reducing the threat of accidents involving schoolchildren during hours of relative darkness.
Now, The National reports today, one city is about to heed her request, at least on a temporary basis.
Al Ain has announced plans to introduce changes to school opening hours. School timings will be staggered in a bid to reduce congestion on the roads during drop-off and pickup times. Starting next week, for a one-month trial period, 19 schools will have starting times that will range from 7.30am to 8.15am. Traffic authorities will also introduce dedicated pickup and drop-off zones.
Changing the school hours will, in theory at least, ease traffic congestion that leads to accidents.
But the new timetables, introduced on short notice, will bring new worries. Many parents have inflexible working hours and may have to resort to new means of getting their children to school.
There will also be indirect consequences. Spreading the traffic that usually takes place during rush hour, will have some effect on business working hours and police patrol schedules. The one-month trial nature of this undertaking should be used to iron out these challenges.
Of course, even if there are fewer vehicles on the roads, accidents can and will happen. Care, as always, must be taken in school zones.
It remains to be seen whether this new scheme will result in a drop in accidents. But for now, the fact that action is being taken to improve the safety and well-being of both children and adults should be welcomed by all.