Dubai: The Roads and Transport Authority has stepped up its road safety campaign for schoolchildren with 771 fines issued against non-compliant schools and transport operators in the first three months of this year.
"The number is almost half of the total number of fines issued in the whole of 2011, which reflects increased monitoring," said Eisa Al Dossary, Chief Executive Officer of the RTA's Public Transport Agency, which regulates school transport.
On the contrary, the increase in fines could also reflect increased negligence on the part of school bus drivers or transport operators. However, Al Dossary does not see it that way.
"Last year, our inspectors issued 1,580 fines and this year in the first quarter alone we have half of it. What this indicates is that we are increasing our surveillance. Most of these fines are for non-compliance with safety standards and specifications, which range from not using the stop arm while dropping or loading students to exceeding the speed limit which is fixed at 80km/h," Al Dossary said.
Highlighting the "revolution" seen in school transport since the RTA took it over in 2008, he said that the number of accidents had decreased by 63 per cent, and the number of casualties and abuse cases on school buses has also come down.
"In the last four years we have had only one case of a death on school buses, while there have been only a couple of cases of abuse. We have taken stern action against any negligence, whether it is minor or major," said Al Dossary.
He said that the Public Transport Agency believes in continuous improvement and as a policy continues to bring in new regulations and guidelines to increase the safety standards on school buses.
As part of its continuous improvement the agency has made female conductors mandatory for all schools from September 1.
It has also issued booklets with new guidelines for schools, transport operators, parents as well as students, which were distributed to all concerned during an Open Day at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) on May 6.
Taking a leaf out of the RTA's success in controlling school transport, the Ministry of Education, in association with federal transport authorities, has initiated similar regulations to be implemented at the federal level.
The step seems particularly important in the wake of the school bus accident last Monday in Abu Dhabi in which seven pupils were injured.
Al Dossary said that the RTA is part of the national committee formed by the federal authorities to implement safety regulations at the national level.