Opinion / Editorials

School bus safety

(China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-26 07:15

Monday's deadly school bus accident in Jiangxi province is a fresh example of local governments' impotence in implementing a regulation of China's Cabinet aimed at ensuring school bus safety that was promulgated in April.

Three children were killed at the scene when a seven-seater van overloaded with 15 kindergarten children fell into a roadside pond in a village in Binjiang township in the city of Guixi. Eight more later died in hospital.

According to media reports, the van was speeding when the accident occurred and the driver was the head of Chunlei kindergarten, which is unlicensed and has been shut down more than once by the local government. The police have detained the driver and investigations into the cause of the accident are under way. A 480,000-yuan ($77,000) compensation deal has been struck between the local government and every victim's family.

However, compensation alone is not enough. Aside from the punishments that should be meted out to those who have played a role in the accident, competent departments should reflect thoroughly on the factors underlying the frequent occurrence of school bus accidents.

That Peng Chun'e, the head of the unlicensed kindergarten, reportedly drove the poorly equipped vehicle herself reveals a stunning lack of awareness among some kindergarten operators of the country's explicit standards on kindergartens and school buses. It also shows that local governments have made insufficient efforts to monitor the implementation of the relevant State stipulations, a kind of dereliction of duty.

In April, the central government promulgated the Regulation on School Bus Safety Management, stipulating specific standards and qualifications for school vehicles and their drivers. It also made local governments above the county level responsible for the safety of school buses under their jurisdiction.

The adoption of the regulation initially ignited hopes that, if effectively implemented, it would enhance the safety of children, especially those in rural areas.

The latest fatal accident in Jiangxi, however, has led to concerns about how effectively the regulation has been carried out by local governments throughout the vast rural areas. Once again it has highlighted the need for a timely and comprehensive overhaul of school vehicles nationwide.

(China Daily 12/26/2012 page10)

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