- Language Tips
BEIJING - The State Council, China's cabinet, has approved a draft of regulations on school bus safety management, according to a statement issued Thursday.
The statement, released after a State Council meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday, said that relevant authorities began drafting the regulation last November based on domestic and overseas experience and opinions solicited from the public.
The draft regulation asks local governments to ensure that students attend nearby schools or boarding schools so as to "reduce students' traffic risks."
For rural areas that cannot ensure nearby schooling or convenient public transport to schools, measures should be taken to ensure students' access to school buses.
Local governments above the county level are responsible for school bus safety management in their jurisdiction and central departments are obliged to "guide and supervise" school bus safety, the draft says.
"Security staff should accompany students in school buses," it says.
The regulation specifies stricter requirements for the technical conditions of school buses and bus drivers' qualifications. It also imposes limitations on school buses' maximum speed and load.
It also grants traffic priority to school buses.
Those who illegally use school buses, offer illicit school bus services or violate security management rules will be punished according to law, says the regulation, which will undergo further revision before being published.
Wang Jingbo, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, described the document a significant move for children in rural areas, who often lack access to safe and convenient commuting services due to poverty and insufficient government funding.
Wang said granting traffic priority to school buses is a "put-people-first" effort which hopefully will stimulate more care for young students.
A string of school bus accidents occurred in China last year, prompting the government to introduce new safety regulations and standards for school buses to allay public worries.
The most serious was in November, when 21 students were killed after their nine-seat minivan, which was crammed with 62 preschool students, crashed in northwestern Gansu province.
Last Wednesday, 10 children, all under the age of five, were injured when their school bus turned on its side in Harbin, capital city of northeast China's Heilongjiang province. The children and the bus driver were hospitalized.
The school bus belonged to a privately-run kindergarten and the bus driver was the kindergarten's director, according to the parents of one of the injured children.
Premier Wen Jiabao promised in his government work report on March 5 that authorities will "enhance school bus and campus safety to ensure children's safety."
As harsher punishments have been imposed on officials regarding school bus accidents, local governments have promulgated measures to strengthen school bus safety. In Lanzhou, capital city of Gansu, all school buses are to be installed with satellite positioning devices by the end of 2012.
The stricter rules on school buses have elevated bus sales in China, which reached 4,577 units in the first two months of this year, valued at some 730 million yuan (115.87 million US dollars), according to the sales data of 50 Chinese bus-makers monitored by Chinabus.info, an industry website.
China's school bus market is estimated at 500,000 to 1 million units, prompting several foreign automakers to plan to snatch a piece of the market share.