NEED FOR POLICY ON SAFE ROAD TRANSPORTATION

Eminent road safety experts and stake holders from Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, state transport departments, CBSE, NCERT, Ministry of Human resources, Schools and Fleet Operators taking part in the Two day conference on ‘Formulation of Draft Policy for the Safety of Transporting School Children’ which concluded here today have stressed on the need of a  comprehensive National Policy for Safe Mobility of School Children using all modes of transportation which plugs the gaps and provides solution safe transport to school children in the country.

“ The proposed policy on safe school transport  should stablish a simple, robust, cost-effective system including proper school bus design and maintenance, sound driver qualifications and continual training, as well as a regulatory framework are some of the key factors for a safer school transport system, said a new World Bank paper which offers recommendations on how to ensure the safety of children in school buses based on examples and best practices from other countries.” said Dr Rohit Baluja, President ,Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) while releasing the recommendations

 “The interest of providing safe school transport is in line with the existing government strategies of ‘Education Priority’ and ‘People Orientation’. By using these platforms to pursue improvements to school buses, vans and other modes of transport , drivers, and the regulatory framework in combination with more vigorous enforcement of traffic laws, emphasis on sustainable financing, and heightened public awareness, India is poised to make a breakthrough in the provision of safe school transport.” Said Dr Baluja.

“The school transport draft policy document is not only for India but both for India and South East Asia to incorporate the following domains: roles and responsibility, road environment, vehicle factors, standard operating procedures as well as the curriculum of training of important stakeholders dealing with the transportation of school children in all modes of transport including both motorised and non-motorised means, enforcement, and post-crash management.” He added.

“The school transport policy should be granted permission to operate only if they formally accept, adopt and implement this policy. The policy should be publicised and be made available free of cost for all schools to adopt.  There is a  need to develop a robust system of gathering all types of data regarding accidents, modes of transportation and other demographic factors involving school going children and school transportation. “ Dr Baluja Said.

 “While AIS Standards for School- bus bodies have been legislated in April 2019, there is an urgent need to define the standards for other motorised and non-motorised means of school transportation. These include vans, mini-vans, auto rickshaws, and E-Rickshaws “ he added .

Some of the eminent participants at the conference will include Mr Abhay Damle, Joint Secretary, MoRTH, Mr Sudeep Lakhtakia, Bureau of Police research & development, , Dr Robert Nowak, UNECE, Ms Jo fung, Transport Division, UNESCAP, Mr Pemba Wangchuk, Bhutan Road Safety and Transport authority, ,Mr Saroj Kumar Pradhan, Department of Roads, Nepal, Dr Jae hoon Sul, Korea transport Institute, Dr Sewa Ram, School of Planning and Architecture, Mr M S Upadhye, Chief Security Commissioner, Metro Rail (DMRC) .

SOME OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS INCLUDE TOLES AND RESPONSIBILITY OF STAKEHOLDERS

Since Road Safety is a subject that cannot be dealt with in isolation, an integrated model of inter-ministerial collaboration needs to get formulated for ensuring a safe travel experience to the school. Safe, secure and inclusive school transportation is a joint responsibility of the State, School and the Parents.

Identify all stakeholders and clearly define their role and responsibility and seek their collaboration to work in close coordination to develop the policy and implementation plan across Centre and States.

Given that road transport comes under the jurisdiction of the respective State governments, Centre-State coordination is a must with similar structures at the State level to make the road environment safer around schools.

Transport Department

The State cannot absolve itself of the responsibility of providing adequate cost effective and safe transportation for school going children. 

Public bus service coordinated with other modes of transportation must be planned carefully after making a study of demand.  This will reduce the burden on parents who are forced to send their children on overloaded means of non-formal transport or use personal vehicles for the same.

Since Transport Department is the nodal authority for the traffic and transport management in any State/Union Territory, it becomes the responsibility of the Department to update legislations and codes of practice from time-to-time based upon the needs of safety.

Driver licensing, vehicle licensing and enforcement of vehicle standards of transport vehicles is the responsibility of this department. Therefore it is important to ensure that drivers of school transport are properly trained and assessed, and they receive post license training to keep them updated with changing legislation. School transport vehicle fitness must receive priority and that unfit vehicles must not be allowed to operate.

Education Department

Education Department need to ensure

That sanction of schools should be governed by the criteria of neighborhood schools, availability and permission of transport.

That already existing school should take responsibility of ensuring that students are using safe modes of transport.

That road environment outside schools traffic circulation does not hinder safety, security and discipline.

That schools submit detailed reports with cases of accidents causing serious injury and death to their students, which may be caused in any jurisdiction.

That Road Safety Education by the medium of the hidden curriculum is imparted through the existing subjects of the school curriculum to students on a regular basis.

Schools

Schools need to

Ensure that admission of students is governed by the criteria of location of residence to fall within a maximum distance as may be defined by the department of education.

Be responsible for safe traffic circulation outside their school premises. They need to take necessary permission for halting and parking of vehicles outside from local traffic police/authorities.

Provide data on type of transportation, distance travelled by students to the education department.

Ensure that none of the students are underage, without licenses or not using seatbelts/helmets when driving into schools or parking their vehicles within their school zone.

Involve PTA’s to review safety norms, support the school during peak hours when the school opens and.

Train their teachers  in the methodology of providing road safety education and awareness to students through the already existing subjects of school curriculum( hidden curriculum)

Constitute a Road safety committee/team which would monitor the safety and security of all students in their transport systems. This would be one of the functions of the School Management Committee which is in charge of the safety and security of school children.

Police 

Ensure that rules and regulations are strictly enforced in their jurisdiction as far as school transportation is concerned.

Under age driving, driving without effective driving license must be strictly enforced.

All eleven violations spelt in the Chapter of legislation/enforcement within the school zone should be enforced strictly and brought to the knowledge of school authorities.

Congestion outside schools during opening and closing hours must be dealt with effectively.

Bring road safety education to schools by highlighting issues and problems which they observe locally.

 Parents

Should encourage the use of public transport wherever possible for their children commuting to school.

Must ensure and take responsibility that their children who are underage, or who do not have effective driving license not to drive motor vehicles.

Should encourage their children to walk or bicycle to school where ever possible.

Should encourage car/vehicle pooling.

Should offer help to schools towards the development of safety norms and support safer management of traffic outside schools during opening and closing hours.

ROAD ENVIRONMENT

Principles of road and traffic engineering within the School Zone should be based upon the Safe Systems Approach.  The design and operation of the road system should guide the road user towards safe behaviour and also to mitigate the consequences of common human errors of children.

There is a need to formally integrate the design principles and definitions of school zones and buffer zones within the Codes of Practice of The Indian Road Congress (IRC) and consequently these zones should be demarcated within the existing and future road environment.

The Buffer Zone is a zone for preparing the motorist that he/she is about to enter a school zone, these requirements therefore are primarily for the implementation of road maintenance agencies who are responsible for the installation of traffic control devices as well as undertaking traffic engineering measures.

The School Zone should be most recognisable to all road users.  It should be the responsibilities of all responsible road agencies to install and maintain recommended traffic control devices prominently.  These should be done in coordination with the local police/traffic police and school authorities and must conform to the legislation (Motor Vehicles Act)

The definition of School Zones should be integrated in the legislation i.e. the Central Motor Vehicle Rules /Motor Vehicle (Driving) Regulations and State Motor Vehicle Rules wherever necessary, so that the eleven type of road traffic violations as spelt in the Chapter of Legislation can be effectively enforced.

The recommended traffic engineering management techniques should be further discussed and defined for different and varied road environments such as hilly areas, highways, congested urban areas etc., by the IRC in co-ordination with State/UT Governments.

Speed management is a crucial area of definition and implementation within the school/buffer zones, and this must receive priority by all concerned stake holders.

Pick-up and drop locations in and around residential areas should be defined in consultation (as mentioned in this chapter) and appropriate signage of bus stops should be installed accordingly.

LEGAL INSTRUMENTS, CODES OF PRACTICE & ENFORCEMENT  

Safe transportation for school children needs to be seen within the larger framework of rights for road users that includes pedestrian rights. There is a need for the development of comprehensive legislation for road safety and safe mobility for children and their commute to schools. All public transport must be strengthened to meet the safety guidelines and needs of school going children

This policy recommends the following to be included in the proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, or other similar legal instruments dealing with the safety and transportation of school children.

 ENFORCEMENT

It is important that provisions within the legislations should be need-based and these must be appropriate, reasonable, well understood communicated and enforceable.

A new provision needs to be introduced “Zero Tolerance for Protection of Children” under which the following areas are recommended.

Concept and definition of a ‘School Zone’ should be included.

Eleven types of traffic violations to include  –

Speeding
Wrongful overtaking
 Not giving right of way to pedestrians
Jumping a traffic signal
Driving under the influence of drugs /alcohol
Driving without an effective driving licence/underage driving
Overloading
Wrongful  U turns
Wrongful parking
Driving backwards and
Use of handheld mobile phone.

   3.   Should attract double the quantum of fines when such offences are committed within the defined school zone.  Furthermore these violations should also qualify as ‘Dangerous driving’ under section 184 of the Motor Vehicle Act/Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code.

A new provision describing the responsibilities of Caregivers has been recommended

The Regulations/Codes of Practice framed under Sections 109/110 of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 with respect to construction and maintenance of motor vehicles should be extended beyond buses to auto rickshaws, e-rickshaws as well.

 An amendment to section 185 is recommended: 

School transport drivers as well as conductors should have 0% alcohol mg/100 ml while on duty.

Road Safety Education /Awareness for School Children should be provided within the legal framework as recommended in this chapter.

Fines & Liability of underage driving should be made higher and stricter. Parents/those responsible for allowing children to drive motor vehicles should be booked for these offences.   It is recommended that school authorities should be included under this provision for such offences within their school zone.

Faulty, wrongly or missing installation of traffic control devices within the school zone by responsible road authorities should be considered as negligence and consequently penal provisions should be adequately framed.

While training and assessment of drivers has been defined within the legislation, it is recommended that it should be made mandatory for commercial vehicle drivers especially those transporting school children to renew their licences every three years after obtaining refresher training and assessment thereof.

 INCIDENT MANAGEMENT

Proper and timely management of RTIs among school going children calls for a comprehensive and coordinated action on all fronts, including on the ground incident management, by all the concerned stakeholders like the Parents, Schools, Hospital and Police. 

Schools need to have a well-defined emergency response system and a band of well-trained first responders to help handle road crash incidents and their aftermath through prompt interventions of first aid, resuscitation and communication with appropriate authorities for timely assistance.

Schools need to identify and train people as First Responders. They can be from the parent, teacher and driver community.

Need to develop a robust data collection and invest in research studies for better understanding of RTIs among school-aged children, their prevention and management.

EDUCATION, AWARENESS AND TRAININGS

All School Drivers/Riders/Pullers need to undergo customised post licence training and refresher courses. These can be organised by the school or enforcement agencies highlighting the role, attitude, responsibility, accountability and safe practices while carrying school children in their vehicles.

Specialised trainings on Safe School Transportation need to take place for School Authorities, School Transport Manager, Parents, Parent School Associations, First Responders and Enforcement Agencies like the Traffic Police and the Road Transport Officials.

Select Teachers need to be trained in every school on Road Safety Education and its pedagogy so that they can impart the training to their students through the hidden curriculum.


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