New School Bus Rules in Singapore

Bus

Are you aware that MINIBUSES that ferry children to school may have to be fitted with seat belts in the near future?  The Land Transport Authority had considered the move after looking at the experiences of other countries.  Strapping up on minibuses is already compulsory in places such as Britain.

The consideration was motioned forward especially after the death of Russell Koh (8), this year April, who was flung out of a minibus on the way to school in a collision with two cars at the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Gerald Drive.    LTA followed with studies that focused on the safety features needed for smaller buses, such as the one involved in a fatal accident.

Statistics

 

Traffic Police statistics show that in 2006, 16 kids suffered minor injuries in vehicle accidents because they were not belted up. That year, an eight-year-old died for the same reason.  There were no fatalities last year but four children were injured. In the first three months of this year, four children were injured because they were not buckled up. The statistics do not cover school buses because they do not have seat belts.


Debates

Already there is much discussion on requiring seat belts in mini-buses.   Different parties have different opinions. The operators are concerned about how to fund installing seat belts in existing vehicles.  Currently, without the seat belt, the operators pack in more children and charge lower fees.   A minibus, for example, would be able to seat 10 passengers belted up, instead of 15 without.     Debates are mainly circling who would have to bear the cost, the government, drivers or the parents? 

Challenges

There are already some challenges with or without the safety belts regulation.   Currently, ALL school buses must have an attendant on board if the bus carries more than 30 children.  From my view, it should be the case even if it is less than 10 children or fewer.   Especially so for autistic children most having mind of their own, you need to have a more watchful eyes.
Schoolchildren can be very mischievous and run around in the bus.   

Even if seat belts become compulsory for minibuses, children may not necessarily use them.   Attendant could then play a bigger role of educating and ensuring every child is buckled.

Some of bus operators might eventually not be willing to ferry the students as they might be running their business at a loss. They might change to ferry factory workers instead. However, profits should not be the main objectives. Those who are willing to still ferry the children at maybe reduced profits are those who are likely to have our child safety as their first priority and they are whom we welcomed.

Wishes for transporting autistic children

I certaintly have many wishes that I hope it is already in place for transporting autistic children, if not, in the near future.  Most importantly, the attendant and the driver must have a heart for the child especially with autism.   They need to anticipate  the likelihood of any accidents or harmful incidents from arising.  They need to be caring and not just take it as a normal pay-job.   They are handling the life of many of our children.
 
For autistic schools, the drivers and attendant, should be pre-selected and filtered, only those willing to take up the responsibilities of transporting the autistic children safely, should be selected.   They should not put profit before our children.  They should at least be aware of autism if not been trained and educated about it.
  
Yes, we should at the same time treat autistic children as normal and let them live in the real world and not over-protective over them.     For the younger, more serious cases of autism, driver and attendant with the good characteristics wished above, will be god sent.   Over the years, our autistic child hopefully will learn the skills of taking a public bus with less protection over them.  But for the start, we will still need those good hearted drivers and attendant.

Safety is not an option.

Are we going around the wrong arguments around the cost? Is there a price to safety? How much would you pay for the protection of your child’s life? 

Granted.   We parents may have to bear some of the costs and it adds on top to the costly fees we are already paying for the autism-related demands.   However, we would gladly pay for the peace of mind, knowing our child are safer whenever they traveled in the bus.    I agreed totally with Russell’s father, Mr Colin Koh, who had said after his son’s death: “I really hope they make seat belts mandatory because I have two other children. I cannot let the same happen to them.”

Safety is not an option, it is a must!


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