Safety regulations for school buses proposed following dangerous incidents

July 29, 2023 - 09:11
School buses for elementary and kindergarten students must have seat belts and proper seating. The vehicles’ windows should allow clear visibility from the outside, and drivers must have at least two years of experience.
A school bus at Nguyễn Tất Thành Primary School in northern Nam Định Province. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Transport has proposed a series of safety regulations for school buses, such as having warning lights or registered identifying paint colours and not being used for more than 15 years.

Under the fifth draft law on road traffic, which is currently gathering public opinion, the ministry has set regulations that school buses must meet technical safety standards and environmental protection requirements.

School buses for elementary and kindergarten students must have seat belts and proper seating. The vehicles’ windows should allow clear visibility from the outside, and drivers must have at least two years of experience.

School buses can be organised either by educational institutions or by transportation companies. Schools must inform the local transportation authority about the service, including the routes, pickup and drop-off points, list of vehicles and drivers, and provide images of the vehicles.

In case of any changes, the school must provide additional information to the authority, it said.

When transporting primary and kindergarten students, schools must assign one supervisor to each vehicle to monitor and maintain order, ensuring the safety of students during the journey. Vehicles with more than 24 seats that are used to transport kindergarten students must have two supervisors.

Schools are responsible for training drivers and supervisors to adhere to safety procedures.

School transport vehicles will be given priority in assigned lane and traffic regulations.

A representative from the Directorate for Roads of Việt Nam’s Office for Vehicle and Driver Management stated that the warning lights on busses must be rotatable and be installed on the roof of the vehicle saying ‘School Bus’, so that other vehicles can easily identify them in traffic.

The drafting agency was considering not making it mandatory for all school buses to use the same paint color, but they needed to have distinctive colors for easy recognition, he said.

He also mentioned that this regulation aimed to make school buses easily identifiable in traffic, allowing them to be given priority in assigned lane and traffic regulation for enhanced safety.

Explaining the new regulations, the ministry emphasised the need to prioritise children's safety when they participate in traffic. However, there are no specific regulations on the management of school buses while this service is becoming more common, especially in major cities like Hà Nội and HCM City, leading to various problems such as unregulated services, poor-quality vehicles, and irresponsible drivers.

The regulations will help clearly distinguish school buses from other commercial vehicles, establish a strict management mechanism for school buses, improve quality, ensure safety, and hold both transportation companies and schools accountable for their operations, it said.

In recent years, many incidents related to school buses have occurred.

In 2019, a six-year-old boy from Gateway School in Cầu Giấy District in Hà Nội died after being forgotten on a school bus for nine hours. In the same year, in southern Đồng Nai Province, a vehicle carrying 16 first-grade students from school to their teacher's home experienced a door malfunction, causing three children to fall onto the road.

In 2021, a school bus in Sông Mã District in northern Sơn La Province was traveling on the road when its door suddenly opened, causing three children to fall out and one of them to be killed.

In February, a school bus driver in Biên Hòa City in southern Đồng Nai Province reversed the bus while some students were still getting off, leading to the tragic death of a third-grade girl.

Apart from school bus regulations, the draft road law has proposed several new regulations, such as allowing tolls for all State-invested expressways; mandating periodic emission checks for motorcycles; using unused bridge space as parking lots; prohibiting double-decker sleeper buses from operating on grade 5 and 6 mountainous roads; and reducing nighttime driving hours for transport drivers. — VNS