Keep schoolchildren from harm’s way

Muscat: As the new academic year kicks off in the Sultanate, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) are urging bus drivers, school authorities, parents and other stakeholders to be extra vigilant at pick-up and drop-off points near schools – areas often associated with unfortunate traffic mishaps.


According to Lt Col Abdullah al Saadi, Director of Traffic – Royal Oman Police, children run over by either school buses or other vehicles constitute the most serious safety concern around schools or in the vicinity of assembly points for buses.


Such tragic accidents occur due to neglect or carelessness on the part of drivers who sometimes fail to spot a child in their rearview mirror, thereby opening them to risk when the bus reverses in particular, the official said.


Children are also vulnerable to danger when they not properly seated when the bus is moving.  Any sudden braking can result in the child being violently thrown in front.  Also at risk are sleeping children inadvertently left behind in a bus or vehicle, with the doors and windows sealed, leaving them to suffocate or die of heat exposure particularly during the hot summer months, Lt Col Al Saadi warned.


Mishaps can also occur when the bus is overloaded beyond the authorised capacity, or when motorists fail to heed pedestrian crossings particularly at schools, the official noted.


“Managing the large numbers of children getting on and off the bus can be distracting for the driver, who can then make mistakes resulting in tragic mishaps.  This is where a supervisor comes in to ensure that all of the children are suitably seated when the vehicle is moving, and to make an orderly embarkation or exit.”


Furthermore, as the safety of the children is paramount, the driver must stop only at designated points. Children must also be suitably taught to maintain calm and stay disciplined on the bus so as not to distract the driver, Lt Col Al Saadi said.


The supervisor should teach the child to cross the road when it is absolutely safe to do so, and only at designated pedestrian crossings. Parents and school authorities also have a role to play in ensuring the safety of children by instilling in them the virtues of road safety. In particular, parents should alert their wards to make sure that the bus comes to a complete stop before they can get off.  In addition, they should not cross in front of the bus unless accompanied by the supervisor or adult. Because of their diminutive size, children may not be easily spotted by the driver when passing in front of the bus, leaving them open to danger, he explained.

According to Lt Col Al Saadi, the Institute of Traffic Safety is paying particular attention to the safety of school children. It continues to receive large numbers of pupils as part of safety awareness activities. The Institute also holds some special campaigns in schools.


By Mai al Abria