The (in) security of school transport

Traveling by bus is 21 times safer than doing it by car if you take into account the number of injured people, and 24 times safer if you look at the number of fatalities. This is stated by the Spanish Confederation of Transport by Bus (CONFEBUS). However, despite the fact that in the case of school transport the regulations are even more demanding since many buses have improved qualitatively with the inclusion of security elements -active and passive-, the truth is that for many security experts This road is still very inadequate. It is because of the legal gaps, but also because of the absence of child restraint systems (SRI) appropriate to the age and weight of children. Issues that families and various groups have begun to ask, demanding schools, transport companies and institutions that any journey, whether short or long, daily or sporadic, urban or interurban, is really done with maximum security.

 

In response to this concern, and also from their position as fathers and mothers who are in that same situation, from the Association to counter save lives decided to extend their work of dissemination of the importance of safety in the automobile to the field of transport by bus and started the informative campaign Insurance on the bus. Anna Canals, one of the founding members of the association, says that they are receiving more and more requests and requests for help from families that do not find an answer to their concerns from their children’s schools. “The buses that transport them, even complying with the legislation in force, do not use a restraint system adapted to the weight and height of the minors, but, in the best of cases, only have a two-point or hip belt, Designed only for adult passengers, “he explains.

In Spain, Royal Decree 443/2001, approved in April 2001, and which was partially modified later, regulates safety conditions in school and children transportation. Among the points that are required to school buses are, among others, the condition that vehicles do not exceed 16 years old since their first registration, which are equipped with a speed limiter, which are marked with the indicative of school transport or that the floor of the vehicle is not slippery. On belts or restraint systems was Article 117 of Royal Decree 965/2006which established five years later the mandatory use by passengers over three years of age of a seatbelt or other approved restraint systems in vehicles intended for the transport of persons with more than nine seats. Belts that should be available in all those buses that have been registered since October 2007, which means that a large number of vehicles do not yet have seat belts installed if we consider that the average age of the bus park is of 14 years, according to data from the Observatory of Transportation of Travelers by Road. Or what is the same: if there is no safety belt (as long as the vehicle was registered before 2007), there is no obligation of installation or use.

For Jesús Rodríguez, Traffic Civil Guard, founder of the Road Safety in Family project and the Ponle Freno Citizen Award 2015, a revision of the regulations is essential “as the knowledge of road safety and the buses themselves have changed since 2001”. According to the expert on Road Safety, the ideal would be for school transport to be done on a bus exclusively for the transport of minors, as they already do in many other countries: “In our country we find ourselves with the paradox that in many cases there is not only an exclusive vehicle for school transport but also the oldest buses are used. In order for a bus to offer safe school transport, it must be equipped with at least three-point belts in all of its seats. This would make it possible, together with the use of a lifter, to correctly guide the belt to the children as well as to be able to install an SRI.

Rodriguez warns that to ensure safety it is important to avoid using the two-point belt, the most common on buses, as this type of belt may be safe for the adult but not for a child: “A belt of two points will hold the child’s pelvis and hip in the event of an accident, with the consequent risk that in the projection of the accident, the child’s body will be thrown forward and hit the backrest of the front seat; which increases the risk of abdominal contusion and cranioencephalic trauma. “

A retention system also on the bus

Although the current regulations do not contemplate the type of retention system, there is also a huge legal vacuum in terms of the transportation of children under three in vehicles with more than 9 seats. From the Association to against march saves lives they consider incoherent that the use of systems of infantile retention in the particular vehicles is required from the birth “while thousands of schoolchildren are exposed daily to a real risk during the transfers in bus”; and they consider that it is a purely economic issue. “The difference between an armchair with a three-point belt and a seat with a two-point belt is about 150 euros per unit. In addition, the floor of a bus with seats with a three-point belt must be reinforced, which increases the price of it, “says Anna Canals.

Another solution is the use of a harness. Euraslog developed in 2015 Kidy Bus Harness, an innovative clamping device for children with a weight between 15 and 27 kilos approved for use in the seats of buses; It can be used both in regular buses with belts of two points and three, which could be a solution in the case of the former. The price – which depends on the quantities ordered and the stipulated VAT rate – ranges between 130 and 150 euros. According to Mikel Garrido, founder of the company and president of the National Association of Child Safety, since September 2016, they have sold more than 4,300 units to bus companies as well as AMPAs, schools, administrations and individuals. Among those administrations, the Basque Country was the first to take a step forward and “reward” those companies that installed an SRI. A fact that was a pioneer in Spain and that according to Garrido is already being analyzed by other communities: “Castilla y León has already announced that it will do the same in the 2019-2020 academic year as well as Navarra and La Rioja”. And not only in Spain. 20% of the total units sold have gone to Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, countries where the harness has been distributed and where the entrepreneur says that marketing agreements are being closed. “Being the first, and today, the only SRI approved exclusively for buses, It makes the interest for pioneer companies in offering real child safety to minors very high. We are constantly receiving requests from really remote countries, from all over Europe, South America or Mexico, Dubai and Hong Kong, “explains the founder.

A change initiated by families

They regret from the Association A contra marcha saves lives that although there are many individual initiatives and small collectives, there is no real awareness of society before this problem. “The moment we become aware of the importance of our children traveling safely in school transport, they will demand equipped buses and the centers and companies will realize that, or offer them, or they will not have enough users for the profitability of the service “, they say. That is why they insist that private initiatives are important: because they can achieve results more quickly than those initiated by the public authorities. “

Precisely to guide families in the possibility of improving the transport of their school, Mikel Garrido and Marta Erill, physiotherapist and author of the blog ‘A mother from another planet’, jointly developed in 2018 a basic guide with all the necessary information for talk to school. A useful guide for families like Nerea Zambrano, journalist and mother of two children, who raised the problem with other parents at the school. After months of talks he says that the issue has been put on hold. “The most difficult thing is to find a bus company with three-point belts and that we finally achieved. However, the company has not allowed families to bring uppers and the school itself considers it a “junk”. We have not been given the option of taking the children to the places of the excursions in our own transport. So the last conversations lead us to organize a talk at the school with an expert in the field who insists on how children should travel to be safe on the bus. “

Jesús Rodríguez believes there is a lack of awareness and road safety: “There is a false sense of security. The current regulations do not help, which is very lax and has many loopholes. But families need safe school transportation; It is not worth using the typical “tagline” of which is approved because approved is not always safe. I have always said that change will be made by families and we will force institutions and organizations to change the model of safety in school transport “.

Mikel Garrido, finally, also considers that the force is being made more from the society that demands safety for minors, and that it is the fathers and mothers who are causing the companies to start installing SRI also on the buses: ” From the institutional point of view, the DGT recognizes that it is a “huge hot potato”, so they aim to give a response before the start of the next course. For this they have created a working group to which we have been invited, “he concludes.

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