Road safety should be priority for schools

IN just a week, Namibia mourned two Windhoek Gymnasium students, who fell victim to an incident of alleged drunken driving. Buses in general are found to be a fairly safer form of public transport, compared to other vehicles or other modes of transport.

A bus' size, structure and design makes it one of the best vehicles for passenger protection. Many parents may not realize that, in fact, the biggest bus or school bus safety risks are posed when the child is near the bus, not so much while riding inside it. The reasonable expectation of any parent is that children remain the responsibility of the driver when on any trip.

Younger children are particularly at risk. At least half of those killed in school vehicle-related crashes are between 5 and 7 years old. This is because younger children tend to act more impulsively, hurrying to get on or off the bus and are less likely to be attuned to traffic dangers.

They are also shorter, which means there are two major risks to their safety: They can’t see over cars, hedges and other obstacles, and the driver in turn can’t see them. It is the responsibility of parents to teach them the basic rules of road safety and school bus safety. We need to give them clear bus-safety rules and practice until they can take care of themselves.

Many children tend to learn about road safety from experience. In the quest to strengthen controls to ensure safe travels of learners in Namibia, the following guidelines could be used to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

All school trips beyond 100km must subject all learners, teachers and transport company personnel (drivers) to a general safety and road safety talk, in consultation with road safety practitioners and or traffic officers within the respective city, town or village.

All drivers taking learners on trips must be subjected to alcohol screening prior to any trip and at certain intervals. Schools must provide a co-driver for all trips, which are more than 500km continuously.

Drivers and or transport companies responsible for transport of school learners must be required to have undergo crash avoiding skills, such as defensive driver training, as well as first aid training to assist in case of emergencies.

Drivers must at all times conduct safety induction prior to such a trip for all passengers as it relates to conduct and rules for passengers, emergency exits and use of fire extinguishers. All schools must ensure training of safety marshals for every grade (medium to long-term together.)

All vehicles to be used for transport of learners must be subjected to a roadworthy certification, at least two weeks prior to the planned trip. All vehicles transporting learners must be fitted with seatbelts that are in a working condition.

All learner transport buses of government must have clear signage for seatbelt use, inclusive of reflective materials. All learners dropped off at schools must disembark at the side of the school and are required to only embark and disembark on the left side of the vehicle. Schools management together with partners should improve safety and signage around schools to enhance safer programmes.

All vehicles used for the transport of learners must be equipped with a first aid kit and fire extinguisher.

Please note that these are just tips that could be used to help schools, organisations and government inspectors who make use of buses as a guide to aid efforts to reduce injury and death of their passengers.

KidzPower

The Motor Vehicle Accident Fund and other stakeholders initiated the Kidzpower programme a few years back. There is a need to empower children to take charge by playing a passive safety role and advising their parents/drivers to comply with the rules of the road. As such, children are empowered to advocate for road safety, to change behaviour as pedestrians and road users, and to create road safety awareness among learners. Our children must be able to detect unruly drivers. This will inculcate positive road safety behaviour among learners and help to reduce fatalities involving children.

To hear more on the topic and how you can become a road safety champion in your respective region or town please join the upcoming Women in Road Safety event in Mariental.