| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Bus safety in Dubai

With the city full of shiny bright yellow buses, Time Out takes a look at the long-awaited new school bus safety regulations

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Having been in Dubai for a number of years, I decided a long time ago that my kids would never travel on a school bus. This is not because I’m a snob – far from it. As a child I enjoyed the school bus rides that took us down picturesque winding country lanes and through villages in the UK’s West Country. But, in my experience, Dubai school transport services were a different breed altogether.

In summer I’ve cringed for those poor baking little mites, packed in like sardines with only puny plastic fans and nylon curtains to combat the heat. Many times, I’ve also driven behind or passed school vehicles that were so packed to the gills with kids that their suspensions were creaking. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the drivers who were more suited to the Cannonball Run than the school run.

Thankfully, just over a year ago the RTA broke their silence on the school bus issue and took a stern stance. All schools in the emirate were given 12 months to standardise their buses with a number of obligatory safety measures. According to the Ministry of Education, approximately 62 per cent of students in Dubai travel to school by bus – which means every day, there are around 250,000 students on the roads during peak times. That’s a lot of kids to consider.

Today, schools have complied with the new regulations and some have exceeded them, by purchasing brand new super-safe vehicles engineered specifically for the purpose. For example, Mercedes Benz have thrown their weight (and 1.8 billion euros) behind the campaign and developed the Sprinter – a school bus with front and rear sensors, passenger airbags, luggage racks, three-point belts on every seat and powerful air conditioning units, plus state-of-the-art stability and anti-lock brake systems to further boost safety.

Hugo Brinks, School Master of the German International School in Dubai, which has just collected the keys to seven Sprinters (each one costing Dhs350,000) believes the investment in safety and comfort is worth it. ‘We are sure our children and parents are going to love this vehicle,’ he enthuses.

However, some parents feel the RTA’s initiatives need to go further. Vijaya Cherian’s seven-year-old daughter has been travelling by school bus for three years, and while she welcomes the measures, she reckons the vast majority of road users are still dangerously unaware of the new rules. ‘Most parents, let alone all the other drivers on the road, don’t know that when the red stop sign pops out, children are about to cross the road after getting off the bus – so all traffic should stop. Even RTA buses ignore the rule. I think these signs are pretty useless because if nobody knows what they’re for, what’s the point?’ Vijaya adds, ‘I applaud the RTA’s efforts, but there needs to be a big campaign to tell road users how they should react to school buses. There has been loads of stuff in the media about the Metro – we all know how to use that, so why haven’t we heard anything about this?’
Do you have any comments to make on the new school bus services? Would you be happy to let your kids loose on them? Let us know your opinion by emailing us at timeoutkids@itp.com.

By Time Out Dubai Kids staff
Time Out Dubai,

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