Bus driver on a mission to keep pupils safe
Schools show extra vigilance following trap tragedies
ABU DHABI // For Iftekhar Ali, 29, safety is always a top priority during the school bus journey.
“I treat these children as my own and focus on getting them to school safely,” said the Pakistani father-of-two.
He performs a pre-trip inspection before each journey every morning to make it safe for pupils of Al Mustaqbal School to ride the bus.
“I walk in front of the bus and check the tyres, the spare tyres, the lights, the mirrors, the fuel tank for any leak,” he said. “I also perform brake systems checks. If the bus is not fit to drive, I need to contact Emirates Transport for a replacement.”
The bus must not move away until the bus attendant informs the driver that the children are either boarded and wearing belts or have left the bus and are clear of the vehicle.
“All children must wear a seat belt, and the attendant must cross-check as each child boards the vehicle,” said Robert Hodges, an international road-risk, driver education and technical and road safety expert. “All children must also be signed on and off the bus to ensure no one is left behind.”
“Extra care needs to be taken during the hot months and also during Ramadan when fatigue often sets in with drivers and attendants. Each should ensure the other is fit to drive and supervise at all times.”
Accidents are likely to happen during the morning rush. School bus drivers are expected to adhere to traffic rules and to expect the unexpected.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” said Mr Ali, who has worked for Emirates Transport for three years . “We need to ensure the safety, comfort and well being of all children inside my bus. But each time I start the engine, I think of my twins back home. And I look at these children inside the bus, who are the future of the UAE. Alhamdullilah, I have not been involved in a single accident so far.”
He makes sure to fasten his seat belt, stick to the speed limit, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front and avoid making unsafe lane changes.
School bus drivers and school bus supervisors attend regular training and workshops to raise awareness on traffic safety.
They undergo medical tests and training on safe driving techniques, defensive driving skills and student management.
Other safety initiatives at Emirates Transport include daily bus safety inspections, regular maintenance, a manual pupil checking system, a disciplinary system to ensure students’ behaviour does not affect their safety and that of others, and cameras and tracking systems to identify the cause of accidents and detect offences by drivers or students.
While school bus drivers obey the rules, many car drivers do not.
“Our managers always remind us not to respond to them in a negative way when they get angry and honk at us,” he said. “We are taught to drive safely and to be always courteous to other road users.”
Before parking the bus after the school run, both the driver and attendant must walk through the bus checking for sleeping or drowsy children, Mr Hodges said.
Mr Ali performs a post-trip inspections, including walk-backs after every trip.
“I walk down the aisle to check each and every seat and press a check button after making sure all the seats are empty,” Mr Ali said. “I make sure that all children are off the bus before leaving.”
Updated: June 25, 2017 04:27 PM