It’s not often we mention school transport here, yet this is never far from operators’ attention. This week’s Coach & Bus Week refers to two serious incidents in Wales, where three schoolchildren fell from two single decks. One student suffered serious head injuries.
Again in Wales, the death of 11 year old Stuart Cunningham-Jones, killed in December 2003 when the double deck on which he was travelling hit a tree, rocked the industry. It is alleged that the driver lost control of his vehicle when pupil or pupils were messing with his steering wheel.
Anyone working in the industry would agree that there are school buses and school buses. On most, pupils behave; on a few, there appears anarchy. Operators and LEAs are right to look at the risks on their vehicles and attempt to reduce them. This is an operator’s duty under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and, unless there are specific exemptions, anyone not doing so is likely to be in for an added shock, if the worst happens. That said, we wonder whether specific risk assessments would have prevented the incidents in question.
Major incidents make headlines. But, it’s worth reflecting the good points in the school transport system. This in no way signals complacency but is designed to demonstrate the oft-overlooked positives.
- About one third of all pupils arrive at school by local bus or on school contracts. Most journeys are free of any incident whatsoever.
- About 1mil children travel free on school transport in Britain.
- Free school transport saves more than 600,000 car journeys per day.
- The bus & coach profession has an enviable safety record. On average, there are zero deaths associated with school transport each year.
- The same cannot be said for those arriving by car (or on foot for that matter), and the numbers so arriving has doubled in 20 years. Work in the States, where about half the school population of 48mil arrives by bus and about half by automobile, suggests fatalities in cars are not twice or three times but some 60 times higher than on buses.
- Where school bus incidents do occur, they tend to be minor in nature.
Pupils tend to feel safe aboard school transport. In the face of some high profile incidents, why else would many disregard seat belts and a minority misbehave?