Promoting safer travel

20th October 2000 at 01:00
PARENTS are right to be concerned for their children's safety when travelling to and from school (TESS, September 29), but use of their own cars as a realistic alternative to the school bus is not an answer.

Statistically, I suspect there is more chance of pupil injury in a car than in a bus, no matter

what its age. "Brat runs" add

to pollution and themselves create danger, If in doubt, observe the mayhem at school gates as parents jockey for pole parking

positions to save taxing their offspring's little legs.

No matter how old, public service vehicles are subject to rigorous licensing procedures as well as annual and spot checks. Pupils using school transport are in greater danger from their own actions, or those of their peers, than from any inherent lack of vehicle safety.

Fitting of lap or seat belts does not guarantee their use. Pupil interference with doors and emergency exis, vandalism and bullying are commonplace on school journeys. Youngsters who trash buses are no respecters of age. New or old, any vehicle is fair game.

Since authorities are reluctant to shoulder responsibility for vandalism, operators end up carrying the costs. Councils get what they are prepared for pay for.

Effective supervision is crucial. Expecting a driver singlehandedly to maintain order on a bus crowded with rampant teenagers

is just not realistic. Unfortunately, supervision costs money for

budget-conscious local authorities. Paying for escorts could upset finely balanced financial equations.

Parents and authorities have to acknowledge their joint responsibility in promoting and ensuring safe pupil behaviour, and recognise that, whatever its cost, safety is cheap compared with the cost of a life.

Colin Wakeling

Old Stage Road

Fountainhall, Galashiels

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