With kids heading off to school, in the yellow buses and autos, it’s time to question the safety of the transport that ferries the children in Visakhapatnam.
Weekdays translate to harried mornings, as kids and teens are rushed off to the bus stop, to the impatiently honking autos, cars or bikes and whizzed off to the school gates. The notion of walking or cycling to school has become a rarity, with longer commutes and increasing traffic. Shelling out for the transport seems like a small price to pay considering the benefits in question. However, what still hankers is the safety of school transport. With news often featuring the seize of buses that don’t meet criteria by the traffic police, it’s unfortunate to note that many school buses and autos have no seat belts or safety devices. Novice drivers, conductors who lack vigilance, overcrowding and rash driving add to the list of worries in Visakhapatnam.
While parents can personally drop their kids off to school, this may not be possible for all. Time constraints and distance of the school are common deterrents. So what is the answer that Visakhapatnam citizens can look at to solve the problem of school transport? Is there a practical and safe answer to ensure that children who head to school reach there safely? Should parents be more vigilant about transport options? Visakhapatnam citizens opine on the safety of school transport in the city.
“I’d like to focus mainly on the school bus facilities available in Visakhapatnam. Firstly, most private schools have their own line of buses, which are operated during school hours and whenever the management requires them to do so. However, my main concern is that there is not a single government school, be it elementary or intermediate, with a bus facility. Nowadays, many students tend to join government schools because of the free or low cost, but the facilities provided to them are not up to the standards for government schools. One cannot blame them entirely, as school facilities are free for many of the students. Also, while APSRTC does provide buses for government schooIs during board exams, I think that transport facilities need to be provided for students of government schools on a daily basis as well.”
– Ram Teja
“Many schools in Visakhapatnam have their own buses, but last month’s accident only stresses the importance of safety norms. The sight of kids busy with gadgets while being dropped to school on two-wheelers isn’t uncommon either. I’ve seen many autos overloaded with children dangling their legs out or some even asleep. In fact, I once took a picture of such an auto and emailed it to that respective school. Unfortunately, there was no response. I’d like to say that safety norms are extremely important, and if unchecked, these situations are simply accidents waiting to happen. Also, schools and parents need to be more vigilant and transport authorities must put stringent laws in place.”
– RM Chaabria
“Parents today are ready to send their children to better quality schools even if they are quite far away from home. For this they are willing to use public transport. Personally dropping, and then collecting kids, is the safest and quickest means. However, it is practically not possible for many due to the morning time constraint, loads of household chores and a hurry to reach their office. School autos, being a cheaper option, are dangerous in terms of safety and security. Most students enjoy riding on the school bus, instead of carpooling, because they get to interact with many other students from school. It allows them to build friendship outside their classroom. Bus drivers must be educated to observe traffic rules and road safety. School bus drivers should be screened along with their driving records. They must undergo special training that ensures their young passenger’s safety and security. A GPS tracking installed in the school bus is a good move wherein the parents can track the movement of the bus.”
– Drishti Agarwal
“I’ve always been dropped off, and picked up, by my dad dutifully every day. Nevertheless I’ve heard some thrilling stories from my schoolmates who used to reach school by public transport. Auto-rickshaws, being the most convenient for many, usually topped that list. Bags hanging on one side and kids hanging on the other, haphazardly, often led to accidents which could’ve been avoided if the rules and regulations were followed properly.
I feel that scrutiny of drivers, even public transport vehicle drivers, is important. Installing safety measures, like safety railing, some rain protection and most importantly, limiting to the capacity of the transport, rather than overcrowding, should be strictly supervised. The same holds good for buses or any other vehicle. It is the duty of the transport officials, and parents, to ensure that these measures are implemented. They can make that ride joyful for the kids as they grow up and look back. Also, parents can be assured that they have sent their children in a safer way.”
“I used to teach at Timpany 5 years ago. As a teacher, it was my duty to reach school by 7:20 AM, but if I were to be late by 10 minutes, I would end up being stuck in the traffic. The afternoons were hectic too, due to the narrow roads and too many vehicles. Because of this delay, I had to prepare lunch in the morning for my family. Since my son is also in Timpany, we would carpool along with his friends, taking weekly turns. The advantage of carpooling is that we reduce the number of vehicles and thereby the consumption of fuel. But as a teacher, with diverse students, I can understand that carpooling is not an option for everybody. This is when public transport, such as buses and autos, come into play. The problem with both these vehicles is the safety factor. Buses do not have seat belts and autos are generally overcrowded. It should be the parent’s job to ensure that the autos, they send their children in, do not have more passengers than the required number. At Timpany, only the Navy officers’ children are transported by bus, and they should use seatbelts for every child. Additionally, a solution to the traffic build up around the school would be to request for traffic police supervision in the morning and evening. The roads are designed for one-way traffic, and should be used in that manner. If the traffic police handles this flow of traffic and makes sure that vehicles are just “pick and go”, and not parked on the road for a long time it would really help.”