This is in continuation of series of articles written by me to address the looming gaps in child safety on public transportation. Injury risks are different around the world, but all children, whether rich or poor have the right to grow up healthy and safe.
Families with young children are a permanent transit reality. Taking children to medical appointments, daycare and grocery store are a fact in the world we live in, and will continue to be so as long as there are people who don’t own cars.
Arguably, busses are the most common mode of surface transit that frequent city roads and streets in their essential role of transporting dependent passengers to their respective destinations.
Lately, one see’s state-of-the-art vehicles with comfortable seating, equipped with innovative security and commuter-friendly aides. This is a big milestone to achieve when one compares these vehicles to what was available twenty years ago.
I would like to compliment the manufacturers and to the transport authorities around the world for investing in such modern-day vehicles, which address customer requirements.
But at the same time, it would be a great help if companies also took interest in ‘preventive measures’. Recently, I had the opportunity to ride on the Dubai public bus service. In my years as a transit operator, I have seen this lack of awareness when riding with children more than I would care to mention here.
Parents, unintentionally put their precious cargo in harms way under false pretense, allowing children to stand close to the front of the bus, or on seats. Even worse, let them run in the bus unattended while the bus is in motion – a nightmare for health and safety departments anywhere.
What parents should try to understand is an emergency application of the brake pedal, an unavoidable sharp turn of the vehicle, could prove disastrous for the children, scaring them with a terrible memory for life, let alone the physical injuries.
Most people who take public transport may recall the bus operator’s constant reminders asking passengers to stand well behind the safety line of the bus.
This line has a multi-purpose: It not only prevents children from falling and hurting themselves against the front of the bus; but also provides the bus operator a clear-line-of-sight of the foot-path or his ‘blind spot’ to avoid moving into other vehicles’ sharing the road.
Another significant element in avoiding injury or accident would be the Training of the Personnel that operate these million-Dirham-machines.
Often, the lack of continuous professional training is grossly evident in operating personnel which organizations seem to ignore. Continuous training is imperative and, has proven over time, is the leading tool in preventing injury and ensuring safety.
Standard operating procedure (SOP), continue to be enhanced across all industries the world-over. Huge funds are allocated in multi-billion-dollar organizations towards the on-going development of man-power, to better serve the needs of their customers and to provide more efficient and reliable service by adopting innovative procedures and policies.
Surface transportation seems to be lacking in these developments and, unfortunately, it is a phenomenon seen across many countries.
Most transit systems, for example, require children to be removed from the strollers or prams and strollers to be folded during the ride. Yet, many major transit agencies don’t even mention a stroller/pram policy on their websites – let alone in the posted, print materials on their vehicles.
Perhaps, the RTA will look into a clear, well-publicized, and consistently applied policy regarding travelling with children.
In addition to explaining the Safety requirements that influence specific policies, RTA may consider providing more general safety information for both children and parents.
If so desired, it is also possible for the RTA to publish their own safety records, as well as, valuable tips for riding safely with children.
I hope this article is taken in the spirit in which it was written. A constructive, positive and un-biased feedback on the potential opportunities for improving service.
By: A. Lawati