Abu Dhabi: Around 50 per cent of school buses in Abu Dhabi will be revamped by September 1 to ensure safety and more comfort for pupils, announced the Department of Transport (DoT).
The department on Wednesday introduced a new set of regulations to make school buses safer for children.
“We have been majorly disappointed by the condition of some of the Abu Dhabi Emirates school buses during our inspections. In addition, 51 per cent of school children reported that they are not comfortable taking their school transportation to and from their homes and that they would prefer using their own transportation instead,” Yousuf Al Ghoul, project planning and scheduling specialist at the DoT, said.
As per the new regulations, bus drivers will be required to be at least 25 years old, have a valid UAE licence for at least a year with a certificate of good conduct and be able to speak Arabic or English to better communicate with students. The DoT will also give all school bus drivers training courses to ensure that they are capable of performing their duties.
Moreover, public school children aged 11 and below will require a supervisor to be on board the bus to regulate their behaviour and ensure that a caretaker collects them from drop-off points.
Other emirates lag behind
Dubai has already regulated school buses with higher safety standards. While Abu Dhabi follows suit, such regulations are yet to be introduced in other emirates, including Sharjah.
“Private school children must have a chaperone on board the bus with them at all times, regardless of their age and grade. Meanwhile, closed circuit television cameras [CCTV] will have to be installed in all school transportation vehicles to monitor all behaviour that occurs on board the bus,” said Khaled Al Ansari, school services division manager at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec).
Major additions to school buses include the unification of the vehicles’ paint which will be yellow, prohibition of foldable side seats and metal bars on windows (both internally and externally), marking clear emergency exits on board the bus and making them accessible to children.
Geographic positioning satellites (GPS) and tracking devices will also be installed in vehicles to ensure that drivers are en route to their designated locations and are not exceeding their legal driving speed of 80 km/h.
Officials said that the placement of additional seats on buses, blocking and locking emergency exits and allowing sign boards with spelling mistakes are some of the violations school transportation vehicles have committed in the past.
A survey conducted by the DoT also showed that overcrowding and bullying are some of the areas of improvement which they would like to see on board school buses.
“Therefore, depending on the vehicle’s dimensions, the number of students on board a bus at a certain time shall not exceed a certain limit, according to the new regulations. This is to ensure that each pupil is sitting comfortably in his or her own seat,” Al Ghoul said.
At the announcement of the new regulations, many school principals and directors expressed their gratitude for the participation of the DoT, Abu Dhabi Police and Adec to carry out this initiative.
Fifty per cent of school buses will be required to be up-to-date by September 1 this year while work on the remaining 50 per cent is to be completed by September next year, according to DoT officials.