Safety of schoolchildren: Road Safety Authority clamps down on rickety school buses

BY: By Eugenia Asare Tandoh
All school buses should be road worthy.

The National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), will from next week begin a random inspection of vehicles that transport schoolchildren to and from school in order to ensure that the vehicles are road worthy.

The aim of the exercise is to minimise the risk of children getting involved in road crashes, injuries, and deaths when they board school vehicles or use the road as pedestrians.

In an interview with the Head of Regulations, Inspection, and Compliance of the NRSA, Mr Kwame Koduah Atuahene, he said the inspection had become necessary because the authority had observed that some of the vehicles providing transport services for schoolchildren across the country appeared to be rickety, had sub-standard seats, worn-out tyres, while some did not have seatbelts as well as retro-reflective tapes.

“We have also noticed that some school buses are often overloaded, the drivers stop at unsafe places to pick up or drop off children and sometimes the buses do not have adult supervisors to manage the children when the vehicle is in motion.” he pointed out.

Mr Atuahene added that the authority would like the leadership of schools to be aware that driving under the influence of alcohol, driving tired, and speeding were not the only actions responsible for accidents on the roads but also, other things such as the condition of the vehicle, uncomfortable seats, worn-out tyres, and overloading could also result in accidents.

He indicated that the NRSA had issued a road safety alert letter through the National Schools Inspectorate Authority (NaSIA) to all private schools to submit data on the vehicles providing school services for schoolchildren, and the qualifications of the drivers using the vehicles.

NaSIA is an agency under the Ministry of Education mandated to provide an independent external evaluation of the quality and standards in basic and second-cycle educational institutions in the country.

“Aside, from providing data on the vehicles and drivers, we also asked them to ensure that vehicles designated for the service are fit for purpose and that the drivers assigned for the service are qualified by law”, he said.

Mr Atuahene noted that the alert issued requested that all schools providing transport services for children to assign a responsible adult to the bus to help supervise the children while the vehicle was in motion and also deter them from standing, sticking their heads out of the windows and ensure general orderliness in the vehicle.

“The NRSA also asked that schools that are situated close to major roads (in urban environments and highways) should collaborate with their assemblies, Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), and school Management Committees (SMCs) to designate traffic wardens to assist the schoolchildren to cross the roads during peak hours,” he pointed out.

Mr Atuahene disclosed that since NRSA issued the alert in January, this year, only a few schools had submitted the data needed, hence the need for the random inspection.

He said that the schools had had enough time to submit their information and cautioned that the authority would not hesitate to impose the necessary penalties and other sanctions provided by the National Road Safety Authority Act on any school that was found culpable.

According to Mr Atuahene, the NRSA Act states that: A person who fails to comply with the request to provide information under Section 30 is liable to pay to the authority an administrative penalty of not less than two thousand penalty units and not more than five thousand penalty units as determined by the authority.

“Not less than 2,000 penalty units is equivalent to GHc24,000 and not more than 5,000 is also equivalent to GHc60,000” he explained.