Starting next week, it will be made mandatory for the school vans to be painted yellow. This will help them stand out in traffic and help drivers differentiate between a mini bus and one taking children to school.
The Sindh transport department has come up with these rules and regulations after a deadly road accident in Nawabshah earlier this year which claimed the lives of 21 people, including 18 children.
All the department is waiting for now is an official notification. According to Yar Muhammad Mirjat, the department’s focal person, there are other new rules that van drivers and parents should be aware of. While talking to The Express Tribune, he said that the school vans will also have ‘School Bus’ embossed. He added that each van would have an attendant to facilitate the children and to look after their safety.
The new school vans, he added, will also have an emergency exit, fire extinguishers and a complaint book. Additionally, the driver of the vehicle will carry a vehicle fitness certificate, registration documents, route permit, insurance papers and driving licence.
“The vehicles will run one kind of fuel and no LPG cylinders will be placed inside the vehicle,” he said. “All the vehicles will abide the rules set for CNG vehicles as per the 1969 Motor Vehicle Rules. The secretary of the Regional Transport Authority and assistant commissioner will also check these vehicles annually.” He added that the school management and transporters will be responsible to make sure these requirements are met.
The manager claimed that schools where more than 500 students are using the vans, will have to arrange for bigger vehicles. “We are doing this to secure our children,” he said. “The school managements have to support us. Our work is to make policies and to implement them. The police should make sure that they are abided.”
Provincial Transport Secretary Taha Faruqui told The Express Tribune that they drafted the new rules because of the increase in number of school van accidents. “The chief minister of Sindh gave orders to regulate the school vans,” he said. “We are waiting for the law department to approve the draft after which a notification will be sent out,” he said, adding that they were expecting the law department to give its nod of approval this week.
Muhammad Hanif, a resident of Gulberg, still remembers the day his 12-year old son, Hussain, fell off the school bus three years ago. His son did not survive the fall and now, every time Hanif sees children playing inside their school vans, he panics. “Hussain was playing with his school friends inside the vehicle,” he said. “The van was on its way to Ayesha Manzil to drop him home. The vehicle’s door wasn’t shut and Hussain fell out on the road. His head was injured which later caused his death.” Hanif, a salesman, added that his son would have been with him today if that door had been shut properly. According to Hanif, every school van should have a conductor to keep an eye on what the children are up to because they [the children] have no idea of what dangers they could be facing.
“The lives of thousands of school children in the city are at stake because of these vans,” said a traffic police section officer on Shahrae Faisal. “These vehicles carry cargo in the evening and children during the day. They should not be used.” He added that they fine school bus drivers regularly but most of the time they get away because of traffic.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2014.