At least 11 per cent of Mumbai’s school and college students from Classes 1-12 have been involved in road accidents, 57 per cent schoolkids claim that seats inside school buses do not have seatbelts while 46 per cent of parents claim school bus drivers are rash drivers. These shocking statistics are part of a study titled ‘National Study on Safe Commute to School’ conducted by SaveLIFE Foundation in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India. It highlights the challenges and the need to improve road safety for schoolchildren.
The study throws up some startling figures and outcomes based on the responses of 1,055 Mumbai schoolchildren and their parents, on road safety for schoolchildren. To begin with, nationwide, around six per cent of schoolchildren have been involved in road accidents; but in Mumbai, it’s almost double, at 11 per cent as stated by the parents.
This comes at a time when as per the latest figures on road accidents published by the ministry of road transport and highways in 2019, more than seven per cent of fatalities involved victims below 18 years of age. Nationwide, the number of fatalities in road accidents in 2017, 2018 and 2019 had shown an uptick, at 9,408, 9,977 and 11,168 respectively.
SaveLIFE Foundation Founder and CEO, Piyush Tewari said, “As of date, over 25 states and Union Territories have announced the reopening of schools. While there is a vaccine for Covid, the vaccine for child deaths on our roads is really our collective action. Our findings through this report have once again emphasised that the right to a safe commute to school is as important as the right to education itself. A comprehensive national and state school transport safety policy can ensure that.”
The study also stated that 34 per cent of children have witnessed road crashes, which according to experts, could be disturbing as well. As far as schools are concerned, the parents and children feel that the educational institutions are doing little towards this vital issue. For instance, 54 per cent of parents and 73 per cent of children agree that schools and colleges do not hold workshops on road safety. Each year, the transport department conducts an event on road safety for 15 days, which is seen as tokenism.
As far as school buses are concerned; 76 per cent of parents in Mumbai feel that school buses are the safest mode of transport for children, 58 per cent feel that it’s comfortable for them among other reasons. In fact, in Mumbai, school buses and walking to school and college are the most preferred options. However, in reality, school buses on the road and the footpaths available, according to the study, have their shortcomings.
At least 57 per cent of children and 34 per cent of parents claim that seats inside school buses do not have seatbelts. Awareness about safety measures needed inside school buses among the parents too, is low as 32 per cent of parents don’t even know if these buses have speed governors and 14 per cent don’t know if schools have transport managers.
Around 43 per cent parents claimed that school buses do not have speed governors and that 46 per cent of them feel that mostly or sometimes, the drivers drive rashly while ferrying children. However, the study claims, that 55 per cent of parents are of the view that schools don’t take any action to address complaints about students’ commute.
At the same time, it is also the parents’ responsibility to ensure safe travel for their school-going children. A good 12 per cent of parents and 16 per cent of children agree that bikers and pillion-riders do not wear helmets while travelling. Likewise, 14 per cent of parents agreed that they never wore seatbelts while 31per cent claimed that they did so, sometimes.
The situation for children who prefer walking to schools and colleges too is not promising. A huge 93 per cent of respondents who walk to school never use retro-reflective stickers. More than 47 per cent children claim that footpaths aren’t available while 42 per cent of children stated that it’s available at some places. At least 25 per cent of children respondents who cycle to school and back claim that there aren’t any cycling paths available.
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