Students getting down from a school bus in Karama in Dubai are escorted to safety to the other side. Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: Motorists ignoring stop signs of school buses on roads will be penalised, a senior Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) official said on the sidelines of the first School Transportation Conference that opened in Dubai on Sunday.

The decision is part of a series of initiatives that RTA is unrolling to improve safety of children on roads.

“Our idea is to give our children the best in terms of safety and facilities. There should be no compromise whatsoever when it comes to their progress under a safe and secure atmosphere,” said Yousuf Al Ali, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency, who gave the welcome address at the conference.

The stop arms are on the sides of school buses and whenever the bus stops to drop a pupil, the stop arm automatically opens, indicating to traffic on the road to wait until the child is safely out of the way.

The three-day conference and exhibition, the first of its kind in the region, organised by RTA in association with the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) in USA, attempts to bring together world leaders in pupil transportation.

“We are trying to exchange ideas and share best practices so that we can improve our standards further and implement solutions that can change the way children are transported,” said Alexandra Robinson, President of NAPT.

She added that Dubai already has an impressive system in place for school transportation and is an inspiration for the countries in the region.

“Our association with RTA is quite new, but in a short time I have seen that RTA is progressive and innovative in their approach. The training system, the safety standards and the use of technology by RTA is quite impressive, more so because this was achieved in a short period,” she said.

As part of its attempt to further improve the facilities on buses, RTA is proposing to make tracking devices mandatory on all school buses.

“Right now some schools and transportation companies have their buses equipped with tracking devices and we are mulling to make it mandatory for all as it really helps keep track of every movement of the vehicles and in turn improves safety,” Al Ali said.

Parents concerned about the safety of their wards have hailed the decision to penalise motorists who ignore the stop signs.

“This is a belated but good decision. The penalties should have been there from the beginning, however, it’s good that they are finally thinking on these lines,” said Sushma Bhardwaj, whose two daughters use school transport.

Another parent said many motorists commonly ignore the stop signs, which puts children’s lives in danger.

She urged RTA to run awareness campaigns about the importance of stopping behind school buses.

According to RTA statistics, there have been no casualties of children on school buses in Dubai over the last four years, reflecting the effectiveness of the measures taken by RTA.