Dubai: The car that killed four-year-old Insiya Vajhi outside the Greenfields International School in Dubai Investment Park on Monday was being driven by a hired driver, and not a parent, the school has clarified.
Gulf News has learnt that the Greenfields International School informed its staff in an internal circular that “some coverage in the media says the other car was driven by a parent. This was not the case, it was a hired driver, not connected to the school.”
The incident has raised concerns over the traffic chaos around schools, especially since this is the second death that has taken place outside a Dubai school in a span of one month. On October 14, security guard Lil Bahador Pariyar, 32, who was on duty outside the gates of the Universal American School, was killed when a car lost control and knocked him down.
With a huge fleet of school buses and private cars converging on schools to drop off and pick up children, the question being asked is whether traffic around schools needs to be better managed?
Chaotic traffic around schools
Those living in the vicinity of schools talk of how chaotic the traffic situation is in some areas when students are dropped off in the mornings and picked up later in the day.
“There’s a sea of yellow buses with students getting in or out. At the same time, you can see parents or drivers stopping their vehicles haphazardly to drop off or collect their wards. They park their cars too close to other vehicles and anywhere they want because they feel it is only for a fleeting moment,” said one parent.
According to a source at a prominent school group that has managed to streamline the traffic situation, the problem gets compounded when students use their own vehicles, and not school buses.
He said, “In schools where the large majority of students use public transport, traffic is easier to manage. Deputed school staff in phosphorescent jackets make sure there is order. The students are made to board buses in proper queues.
The buses are not allowed to move until the final whistle is blown by the staff in charge. Besides, many schools tend to have a separate entrance and exit for buses which is away from the main entrance of the school where students may leave on foot.”
Unaffordable bus fees
But a parent who drops off her son to a school in Deira said the bus fees is unaffordable. “I am forced to do the school runs myself because of this, and everyday is a nightmare. The traffic chaos is at its worst when parent teacher meetings take place.”
Another parent said, “In some cases, the students don’t stay too far to take a bus. Or there are siblings attending school, so parents choose private transport.”
Often, the chaos is blamed on drivers hired by affluent parents who have scant regard for rules. “They want to [drop their children] as close to the school premises as possible, never mind the rules,” said a parent.
“Drivers are not as patient or cautious as parents. We often see cars swerving dangerously as everyone is clamouring to park close to the school entrance gate. What we see in the morning and afternoon is total chaos, complete disregard of rules. Drivers park in a haphazard fashion, children get off at undesignated places and come in the way of buses and cars,” said a mother.
“Schools need to have designated car parks for drop offs and pickups. They need to be located far away from the school entrance. No student should be exposed to the dangerous traffic chaos that builds up. Until something is done about this, we will be unable to stop these kind of accidents,” she added.
What the law says
RTA and Dubai Police repeatedly issue warnings to motorists to avoid rash driving and traffic violations in school zones with a view to keep students safe .The legal speed limit in school zones is 40 kmph.
At the beginning of the new academic year in September, the Dubai Police issued strict messages to rash motorists and traffic violators in schools zones. Motorists were warned against changing lanes or increasing their speed while entering and exiting school zones, especially around zebra crossings. Motorists were cautioned to stop when a school bus stopped and put out a yellow stop signal which indicates that a student is about to cross the road. Failure to follow the stop sign of school buses leads to a Dh1,000 fine and 10 black points, according to the UAE’s Federal Traffic Law, which came into effect on July 1, 2017.
The law also includes a fine of Dh500 and six black points against school bus drivers who fail to open the stop sign. To avoid the fine, drivers are required by law to maintain a distance of not less than five metres, in order to ensure the safety of students.
Traffic authorities have also called upon motorists and bus drivers to slow down and be careful when entering and exiting school zones. Motorists must give way to school buses, allow pupils the right of way at zebra crossings and not speed in school zones, else they would face fines or black points.