Some children are back at school and others might be starting soon, and we must roll with changes that this bring.
Covid-19 has brought a new level of safety precautions that we must keep in mind when we trust another to take our children to school. Although the Covid-19 regulations for school transport have not been published as yet, we can safely assume that children will have to wear masks, the vehicles must be sanitised and that the loading of these vehicles will be addressed.
I would suggest that you send your child to school with a sanitiser of your choice, some wet wipes and a fresh clean mask every day. Some tasks you keep control over.
Using a transport service to drop off your kids and collect them from school again is not a luxury, it is a necessity in our busy and full lives. The quality of that transport is also not always in our control and budgets must dictate. Many parents must leave home before their children do as they haste to get to work on time. But the safety of our children should never be compromised.
Now here is where we have a dilemma. Children do not count as a person to load a vehicle. If you look at your license disc, it will say that the vehicle is certified to carry a certain amount of persons, normally 5 for your average family car. It is perfectly legal to load 26 toddlers or 18 ten-year-olds into a taxi, this is because two kids between the ages of three and six will count as a person and three kids between six and 14 will count as two persons.
Transport for gain, in other words, that you pay for, are also exempt from using car seats. I do not know to what extent the loading of children will be addressed during the Covid-19 crisis. The 70% rule for minibus taxis will not do. Ask your child’s transport what they have in place to manage Covid-19 and the safety of your child.
The better school transport shuttles available go above the regulations and will only seat one child per seat belt and will accommodate car seats. In some cases, they will provide the car seat and in other you have to provide your own. Make sure you have a good relation with your shuttle service and you are quite within your rights to ask for a service record of the vehicle and have a good look at the vehicle to check that tyres are sound, there are no oil leaks and so on.
The driver must have a PrDp, Professional Driving Permit, on hand at all times as well as a valid drivers license. Urge your children to use their seat belt every time they use their school transport. They must also tell you if they do not feel safe in their transport. Communication between all the parties involved is key to safe travels.
You cannot be at the school to make sure your children safely disembark from their transport. Why not ask the teacher in charge of the scholar patrol to keep an eye out for you? Ideally, children should not cross the road to get to their transport and if it cannot be avoided, there must be a scholar patrol available to guide them across the road safely. Ask the teacher to also look out for their driver’s behaviour like cell phone use while driving.
We also don’t know when children will go out on school trips again. Buses, because they are bigger and heavier than minibuses and family cars, are much safer for our children. The impact of a crash is much less on a bus than it would be on a family car and this is because of the weight advantage of a bus. Seat belts must be used on a bus, but car seats are not required. What is very important though, is that the bus gets checked for roadworthiness and that the driver is correctly licensed. Tires don’t simply burst and buses don’t lose control all by themselves.
Our children rely on us to ensure their safety and it is an issue where everyone in the value chain must take responsibility for. We must also have the peace of mind that our children are safely transported. Road safety for our children is a team sport where we all do our bit.
For more information on how to keep children safe as passengers, parents are most welcome to be in contact with Wheel Well. Let us work together towards preventing our children from serious harm and injury in crashes.
About Peggie Mars
Peggie, the founder of Wheel Well, is a committed advocate for child rights in road safety and founded Wheel Well in 2012 with the help of Eugene Herbert from MasterDrive. The Car Seats for Kids campaign has been running for seven years, and more than 8 500 children have benefitted from a safe, clean used car seat.
Since Peggie started her work with Wheel Well, the death toll of our children in traffic-related crashes have come down by 24%. Their work for children in road safety has expanded to include children in public transport and children as pedestrians. Peggie has been awarded the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award in 2016 in the Safer Road User category. She has also received the Gumtree Women in Autos Award for extraordinary contribution to the Automotive Industry in 2018 and is a finalist in the Woman of Stature Awards 2019.
Peggie can be contacted on 072 385 7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have a question for Peggie? Ask your question here.