Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 January 2020

School death is a reminder: every driver has a role to play in road safety

The school run is a particularly hazardous time, when harried parents are up against the clock

Greenfield International School has brought in counsellors to support teachers and pupils following the death of four-year-old Insiya Vasihi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Greenfield International School has brought in counsellors to support teachers and pupils following the death of four-year-old Insiya Vasihi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The death of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare – particularly when the circumstances are senseless and easily preventable. Yet that is the horror facing the grief-stricken parents of little Insiya Vajihi after the four-year-old girl was hit and killed on Monday by a car reversing at speed near the grounds of Greenfield International School in Dubai.

Insiya died at the scene while her mother, who was struck with her, is being treated in hospital for multiple fractures. This is simply the latest fatality involving young children falling victim to bad driving and the second known incident in a month in which a tragedy of its kind has played out. Last month, school security guard Lil Bahador Pariyar was knocked to the ground and killed by a speeding car that mounted the kerb. In both cases, police have blamed drivers hitting the accelerator instead of the brake.

They are all the more shocking because they occurred either by the school gates or in nearby car parks. Schools are supposed to be institutions that protect children. These incidents require urgent action from teachers, parents and educational bodies to ensure stringent rules apply both within and outside school grounds, particularly for those dropping off or picking up children. Vigilance is needed from both drivers and school staff to ensure no lives are put at risk.

The issue of road safety, however, goes beyond the purview of school management. In August, Abu Dhabi Police released a video warning drivers of the dangers of reversing without looking because of the number of fatalities involving small children. In April, a 17-month-old toddler died when she was run over by a neighbour’s car while playing outside her home in Sharjah. And in 2016, a father in Abu Dhabi ran over and killed his 18-month-old daughter.

The responsibility for safe driving lies squarely with the person behind the wheel, who should be aware at all times of other road users, pedestrians and potential hazards and act quick and responsively. Yet a survey this week found one in five drivers in the UAE had been involved in a road accident in the past six months. This is a shocking number that the government is working hard to reduce by enforcing a number of road safety campaigns to improve driving habits.

Last month, for example, Abu Dhabi Police released a video showing a driver hurtling head-on into a central reservation, then ricocheting across several lanes of a busy road filled with moving traffic before smashing into a ditch. In that case, mobile phone use was to blame, but there are frequent examples of bad behaviour on the road, from failing to wear seatbelts, falling asleep at the wheel, failing to indicate and tailgating. There are currently 4.4 deaths on the road per 100,000 people in the UAE but one death is one too many.

Everyone has a role to play in making our roads safer. It is the responsibility of every driver – whether a parent or a designated driver – to ensure all pedestrians, particularly children, are safe and protected from hazards they might not be aware of. The school run is often seen as one of a long list of chores, frequently carried out by harried parents navigating choked streets during rush hour and watching the clock. Taking 10 minutes extra to carry out a smooth and safe drop-off or pick-up could save lives. After all, no parent or driver should begrudge taking a few extra minutes to ensure a child gets to live. Schools should also be more flexible about students who may be a few minutes late if it means they arrive safely.

Updated: November 7, 2019 09:46 AM