Proper school bus design and maintenance, sound driver qualifications and continual training, as well as a regulatory framework are some of the key factors for a safer school transport system, said a new World Bank paper which offers recommendations on how to ensure the safety of children in school buses based on examples and best practices from other countries.
The World Bank paper titled On the Road to Safe School Transport in China prepared by Fei Deng and Geoffrey Kurgan draws on examples from the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Japan as well as a number of other countries with established school transport systems. Investigation of the school bus industries in these countries reveals a number of design features that enhance school bus safety; use of a systematic maintenance program; regulatory systems that govern buses, drivers, as well as the behavior of other motorists; institutional frameworks that leverage support from multiple government agencies; and a number of effective financing and operational models.
”The government is dedicated to quality education for its children; and commensurate dedication is needed for the safe transport to and from school,” said Fei Deng, a Senior Transport Specialist at the World Bank and one of the authors. “The interest of providing safe school transport is in line with the existing government strategies of ‘Education Priority’ and ‘People Orientation’. By using these platforms to pursue improvements to school buses, drivers, and the regulatory framework in combination with more vigorous enforcement of traffic laws, emphasis on sustainable financing, and heightened public awareness, China is poised to make a breakthrough in the provision of safe school transport.”
Using international best practices and lessons learned from mature school transport systems, the paper provides a series of recommendations to improve school bus services in China. They include:
Move towards a unified approach led by one national level agency and supported by various technical, regulatory, and law enforcement entities with clearly defined responsibilities and dedicated funding;
Regulate bus designs and operation that set a minimum level of design and construction requirements, monitor registrations, inspections, and maintenance, as well as facilitate basic and preferred driver qualifications and training;
Develop a national plan for school transport safety with milestones for the introduction of a new national Chinese school bus, ratification of new laws and regulations, as well as targets for the reduction in the number of school transport accidents and fatalities;
Enforce school transport safety through the local police, school zone traffic management, as well as inspectors and other law enforcement entities who must be held accountable for ensuring a safe school transport system; and
Launch a national school transport safety campaign to raise awareness of new national regulations and standards, vehicle and driver requirements, as well as traffic rules for school zones.
Adopting new laws and regulations, and modifying existing frameworks related to school transport are areas of national strategic importance. It is clear that now is the time for action.
The paper is the fifth of a series of papers on transport topics produced by the World Bank in Beijing.