The school bus is the main mode of transport for children as they generally catch it at least ten times per week: Monday to Friday, morning and afternoon. According to figures from the National Institute of Statistics, more than 230,000 children go to school by bus every day in Spain.
This is a logistical relief for many parents who, because of their work, cannot take or pick up their children themselves, but many of these journeys are done on conventional roads which pose a higher risk of accident, which can be a matter of concern.
ARE YOUR CHILDREN TRAVELING IN THE SAFEST POSSIBLE CONDITIONS?
Almost certainly the answer to this unsettling question is yes, because Royal Decree 443/2001 of 27 April 2001 sets out a series of standards to guarantee the safe transportation of schoolchildren:
- Vehicles must be less than 16 years old at the beginning of the school year during which they will be providing a service.
- Every bus must have the appropriate School Bus signage at both the front and back of the vehicle.
- The bus's documentation must show that it has passed an annual vehicle inspection in its first five years. If the vehicle is older, it must be inspected every six months. It must also have mandatory insurance plus additional insurance to cover civil liability for damages and special authorization to operate as a school bus.
- It is essential that the bus has seats for disabled passengers.
- The floor of the vehicle must be non-slip and the edges of steps must be identified with a bright color so they can be seen easily.
- The doors must make it easy to get in and out of the bus and there must be handrails for further assistance.
- The seats in front of stairwells or those that are not protected by the seatback in front must have some form of fixed protection. If these seats are occupied by children aged 5-11, the seat belts must have three anchoring points and booster cushions must be provided. Take a look at the very first approved child seat for buses.
- The duration of the journey each way may not exceed one hour.
All these features and systems can be demanded by the parents and guardians of children who go to school by bus.
SINCE 2007, SEAT BELTS HAVE BEEN MANDATORY ON ALL BUSES.
A child who does not use any form of restraint system runs five times the risk of suffering fatal injuries than one who does.
Studies have shown that nine out of every ten injuries to children, whether serious or fatal, could have been avoided if a seat belt had been used.
For this reason, an EU Directive has ruled that all new buses after 2007 must be fitted with seat belts.
SAFETY ALSO COMES FROM EDUCATION
Parents, teachers and schools can also do their bit to improve safety on school bus trips.
Let's go over a few essential behavioral guidelines that need to be instilled in children's minds.
- Getting on and off the bus. These are crucial moments and if the right action is not taken in these situations it can seriously endanger children's safety. It is essential to get to the bus stop in plenty of time; don't wait for your child on the other side of the road, and don't double park.
- Inside the bus. The ideal situation is for every child to remain in their seat and respect the space of other passengers. This avoids many unexpected situations that might otherwise have unfortunate outcomes. No shouting and no rough-housing is very important advice for children, as well as not inciting other children to do so, so the driver can do his job properly without any disturbances.
It is also very important that they are not carrying anything loose in their hands. Everything should be tucked securely inside their backpack so nothing falls inside and, most importantly, outside the bus.
- Evacuation drills. It is often said that children are sponges for their ease in soaking up new information at a very young age. Consequently they should be able to easily familiarize themselves with their surroundings and know how to behave properly in any given situation.
- The Safety Officer. Schools should highlight the importance of the Safety Officer, a teacher charged with supervising children's arrival and departure at school.
Your children's safety is a number one priority and school transport is no exception to this. If you have any questions at all on this subject, our section ‘Answers from the experts’ will help you to resolve them.