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The unfortunate incident of an seven-year old kid being murdered in Ryan International School is one that will continue to haunt the society for long. I hope that the culprit for such a ghastly crime is punished at the earliest but while moral values of many seem to be having a free fall in a bottomless pit, we as parents and stakeholders of the society can do a lot to ensure a safer environment for our kids and the future of this country. In fact, it is in such desperate times that parents need to take every possible step for their kid's safety. The reason you're reading this article on Express Drives is that I want to point out the safety lapses many parents unknowingly ignore while it comes to child safety when using motorised forms of transport. The most critical period for a child's safety for most parents is when they're away and the single largest such time is the one spent commuting to and from school. I stay in Delhi and will primarily approach child transportation safety from the perspective of a metro city as the concerns in such cities are much serious.
Almost all private schools in large cities have their own buses and are the safest options for kids. However, it's not just the sheer size and weight of the bus that will ensure safety for your kid. School buses need to meet a specialised set of safety rules. These include the availability of a fire-extinguisher inside the bus, horizontal bars on the windows, provision of a first-aid box and place for storing school bags underneath the seats. An attendant too needs to be present in the bus at all times of transporting kids. As responsible parents, we should conduct timely checks in the bus and with the school transport department to ensure all safety procedures are being followed. Kids themselves should regularly be taught and explained how they can ensure their safety inside a moving bus by not sticking their hands out or moving when the bus is in motion. The latter can send a kid flying over a distance in case of hard braking, causing serious injuries.
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The other thing that completely baffles me is parents sending their kids to school in vans. These are Maruti Suzuki Omni vans that by any measure cannot be termed even close to being safe. At this point, some people might bring up the case of school buses not plying on certain routes, forcing parents to use private transportation. Even in this case, if the same group of parents stands up for child safety and agrees to pay a few hundred bucks more every month per family, it won't be hard to get a much safer vehicle such as a Maruti Suzuki Ertiga or a Honda Mobilio or even a Toyota Innova with some more money. The problem is most people don't consider this to be a safety hazard and at times even discontinue the bus service and send their kids in a van to save money and a few minutes.
This is not the end of hazardous road transportation for school kids. Away from the posh locales of swanky private schools, one can find a larger part of the city's kids studying in Government schools and many small schools. Buses are not a common sight in such parts of the city and most parents rely on auto rickshaws and the recent menace of E rickshaws. Devoid of even a proper hard-body structure to safeguard children, these vehicles are not even stable and are prone to rolling over in the case of small impacts too. Since children are unrestrained in these vehicles, they can sustain serious injuries in case the rickshaw turns over. We as parents also ignore the sight of our kid being literally stuffed into a rickshaw every morning. An overcrowded vehicle that is fundamentally unstable is similar to a drunk person given more weight to carry than he/ she normally can. The fall as unlikely as many may hope, is inevitable.
With the highest number of road fatalities in the world, India has the most hostile environment in the world. Sending kids to school on such roads, therefore, requires a higher awareness and vigilance from parents and all stakeholders of the society. In the middle of grave and heinous crimes being committed against innocent kids, road safety might not appear to be an area of immediate consideration but trust me, when it comes to safety, there's nothing too small or big and it's never too late to start.