Are your kids safe on their way to school?

With the nights drawing in and the winter starting to make itself felt, many parents are entrusting their children to other drivers to take their kids to school. And in cases for children with special needs, the requirement for transport to school usually extends throughout the year.

But have you thought about who is actually doing the driving, and the standards of the vehicles they are using?

Some worrying incidents from this year

Drink-driving in Gloucestershire - in January a school bus driver crashed just minutes after dropping off 30 children aged between four and 11. He was found to be three times over the drink-drive limit. Having admitted drink-driving, the driver was given a 14-week jail sentence, suspended for a year, and banned from driving.

Multiple offences in Berkshire - a police and local authority investigation of 26 drivers responsible for delivering children with special needs to a school west of Reading highlighted a number of problems:

  • A private hire taxi driver was issued with a £200 endorsable fixed penalty notice for not having any insurance, and his car was seized
  • Two minibus drivers were each issued with a £60 penalty notice for driving not in accordance with their licence. One of the drivers also had no MoT and was issued a fixed penalty notice. Both minibuses were seized
  • A defective tyre on a minibus led to a £60 endorsable fixed penalty notice and VOSA issuing an immediate prohibition
  • Six out of seven taxis examined failed to show the correct documents
  • One taxi driver was not able to produce a licence badge
  • A licence plate on one taxi had expired
  • Another taxi not only had an expired licence plate, but also had a defective rear seatbelt and no fire extinguisher
  • Two drivers fled before checks could be made on them.

Drink-driving in Buckinghamshire - a school bus driver drove into a low bridge and sliced the top deck of his bus off. He was almost three times over the drink-drive limit, and had just dropped off 46 pupils.

Multiple offences on the M1 - 21 coaches and their drivers were checked at the London Gateway service area on the M1. Mechanical faults prevented four coaches from continuing on their journey, while one coach driver breath-tested at more than three-and-a-half times the legal limit. He had just dropped of children at school.

Ask some simple questions

If your children travel by coaches, minibuses and private hire taxis, you should ensure their school's head teacher ask for regular driving licence and permit inspections, CRB checks and verification of any other relevant documents.

  • If you have concerns for your children's safety on their way to and from school, you should address the following questions to head teachers:
  • Are there documents that prove that my child's driver (and escort) are trained and cleared to work with children?
  • When were appropriate safety checks last carried out on the vehicle or vehicles that my child travels in?
  • When did you last check the driver's (and escort's) CRB certificate?
  • When was the driver's licence and insurance last checked?

A reputable transport operator will almost certainly be happy to co-operate, as they will have nothing to hide. All parents of pupils who use school transport should push for more frequent checks of drivers and vehicles, so that the risks faced by their children are reduced to a minimum.

David Williams MBE is the CEO of GEM Motoring Assist, a leading road safety organisation in the UK. They provide caravan breakdown services to motorists in the UK.

Article Site Code by Web Positioning Centre