Abu Dhabi school buses to get seat belts
ABU DHABI // Tough new regulations are being brought in for Abu Dhabi’s 6,000 school buses, including mandatory seat belts, medical tests for drivers, and training courses on pupil safety.
The regulations are the latest in a series of safety measures largely driven by the death of a girl, 3, who was locked in a school bus in October last year.
Nizaha Aalaa was in her first month at Al Worood Academy when she was left on the bus on the morning of October 7. Her body was found a few hours later.
The safety measures are being implemented now, said Brig Hussain Al Harthi, head of Abu Dhabi traffic police.
“We are giving school bus operators up to two years to comply with the new set of regulations,” said Brig Al Harthi, also the chairman of the School Transport Executive Committee.
“Maintaining the safety, comfort and sustainability of school transport is the joint responsibility of the Government, community and private stakeholders.”
Operators must equip new buses with three-point seat belts, regardless of the number of seats, before they will be registered.
Three-point belts must also be installed in 22-seat vehicles that are already registered, and two-point belts in bigger buses.
Medical tests to check drivers’ fitness will be carried out by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, or Seha.
Vision and hearing will be examined and there will be tests for hepatitis B, blood sugar, renal function and cardiac health.
Bus operators will pay the Dh750 fee for each applicant.
Drivers who pass will be issued a medical certificate valid for two years.
Applicants who return from a holiday outside the UAE will have to pass another medical fitness test for a Dh250 fee, which will also be paid by the school.
The Emirates Driving Company in Mussaffah will train bus drivers and attendants on defensive driving, traffic safety, daily inspection of buses, and safe boarding and disembarking.
They will be told how to ensure pupils behave and how to look after their safety, including emergency evacuation.
“We’re conducting theoretical and practical lessons and each will run for a week, depending on whether the applicant passes the exams,” said Khaled Al Mansoori, chief executive of the EDC.
Training manuals have been prepared by the EDC, Department of Transport, Abu Dhabi Education Council and Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council.
“The regulations will be implemented gradually in phases,” said Ali Makki, of the Department of Transport. “Training will be carried out according to the capacity of Emirates Driving Company.”
Brig Al Harthi urged parents not to endanger their children’s lives by allowing them to travel on unlicensed school buses.
The department has signed an agreement with traffic assistance company Saaed to take on inspections and monitor the safety of school transport.
The executive committee is working with Adec to monitor compliance to the new rules.
“The safety and security of our students are our top priority,” said Hamad Al Dhaheri, executive director of private schools and quality assurance at Adec.
While Brig Al Harthi did not provide statistics on accidents involving school bus drivers last year, he was expecting a decline once new regulations came into force.
“Those who fail to adhere to the new regulations risk the withdrawal of their licence, confiscation of their vehicle and a fine,” he said. “The amount of the fine will, of course, depend on the type of violations.”
“We will check their traffic fines and the number of accidents they were involved in. Do they need refresher training or is it mainly due to their driving behaviour?”
Closed-circuit TVs and speed cameras will be installed near schools to ensure pupils’ safety, Brig Al Harthi said.
“We are trying to assure parents that our school bus system is safe and secure, so we are working on the regulations, the infrastructure and the redesign of the streets around schools,” he said.
“By next year, the infrastructure will be completed.”
Updated: February 2, 2015 04:00 AM