The new regulations include mandatory installation of three-point seat belts on buses wih 22 seats and two-point seat belts in buses with more than 22 seats. These are meant to ensure the safety of children. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: School bus drivers must now undergo medical check-ups to measure their fitness level before they can be licensed to perform their duties, the Department of Transport (DoT) announced today.

Effective immediately, these new regulations include the mandatory installation of three-point seat belts on buses with 22 seats and two-point seat belts on those with more than 22 seats. “Schools and bus operators who violate these rules will have their licences revoked, face a fine and may even have their vehicles impounded,” said Brigadier Engineer Hussain Al Harithi, head of the Executive School Transport Committee and Director of Traffic and Patrols Directorate at the Ministry of Interior.

The new safety measures were announced to make school buses safer for pupils.

These medical examinations will be conducted by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) and include tests for Body Mass Index (BMI), diabetes, hepatitis B, and sleep apnoea, among other illnesses. The check-up will cost Dh750 per driver for a certificate valid for two years if he or she does not leave the country during that time. In case bus motorists leave the UAE and come back, preventive and basic medical tests to check for contagious diseases costing Dh250 will have to be conducted.

In 2013, a set of regulations for school bus safety were issued and schools were given a grace period of one year to comply. Therefore, by September 2014, schools were expected to have a full fleet of fully compliant vessels.

However, in October 2014, the death of four-year-old Nizahaa Ala’a in her Al Worood Academy Private School bus shook the capital. The KG-1 pupil was found dead in her school bus after an unlicensed bus attendant who was originally working as a cleaner at the institution failed to check the bus for students.

After being asked why there were still schools that had not revamped their vehicles even after the September deadline had passed, Salem Al Daheri, Executive Director of School Operations at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) said: “Any failure to adhere to the school bus regulations fall on the shoulders of the school using the unlicensed vehicles for the transportation of students keeping in mind that doing so jeopardises the safety of those on board.”

Even though committee officials said that SAAED is responsible for conducting vehicle inspections, court documents in the case of Nizaha revealed that no such procedure was taken for the Al Worood Academy Private School fleet that included unlicensed buses owned by a third party.

“Special training manuals for school bus drivers and escorts were prepared in collaboration among the DoT, the Adec, Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council and the Emirates Driving Company,” a statement by the DoT said.

“The training courses include lessons on the daily technical examinations of the school bus, in addition to courses on traffic safety measures while driving and when picking up or dropping off the students. The training manuals also cover the subject of bus evacuation in emergencies,” the statement added.

The committee said that an official deadline for compliance with the new rules has not been set but a general framework of two years should be sufficient for the emirate’s entire team of around 6,500 drivers and 6,000 attendants to go through the procedures in order to obtain their licences.