ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41

School vans: More questions than answers

By Harry Jayachandra

Inflation is high and the rat race is getting even tougher. Sri Lanka's tradition of the male being the sole provider is no longer operational. Spouses have to go to work otherwise making ends meet borders on the impossible. This raises the question of how children can go to and from school. This makes the new fad -- Enter what is now a thriving and lucrative business namely school vans.

Everyday one sees numerous school vans parked near these institutes of education for the next generation. Many parents especially in Colombo and the suburbs opt to use school vans to send their precious children because time just does not permit them to drop off their children themselves. Another problem is that there are many parents who would have to use public transport to drop their children at their respective schools. Hence time constraint comes in to play. As a result school vans are the only option available.

Another common sight if you are an early bird is school vans packed to the gills with eager young faces. But how safe are these vans? To the drivers of these vans have a genuine driving license? How many school children are allowed in any one particular van? ST - 1 decided to find the answers to these questions and who is better to talk to than the Traffic Police of Sri Lanka.

S. I. Senadhira speaking on behalf of the Traffic Police said that it was up to each individual police station to monitor school vans. He said: "Many years ago we used to get a fair amount of complaints about school vans being used for nefarious purposes. We did a very through investigation and about five to six years ago we gave legitimate school vans special stickers. As a result these nefarious activities have dropped to almost zero."

When asked about the safety factor and how many children are allowed in a van, Senadhira said: "That is where we have faced a problem. According to the rules a van can run with third party insurance. All we can do is request the driver and owner to get a full cover. If there is only a third party policy and an accident, parents of the children injured get absolutely nothing. First and foremost we have to keep in mind the passengers of these vans are children. Thus if owners disregard our request, we also go according to the rule book. For example a duel purpose van can carry only nine passengers and the driver. Thus we charge the driver with over loading both on his way to school and on his way back from school. Once we do this a few times, invariably the owner gets full insurance cover for his vehicles."

With regard to whether drivers have a license, Senadhira said in conclusion: "Whenever we stop a vehicle now, he driver has to have a valid driving license. If he or she does not, then we detain the vehicle and a spot fine is imposed both on the driver and the owner. A person with a proper driving license has to come in order to get the vehicle once it is detained. This measure has resulted in a rush by many to get their driving license. As a result I believe that almost if not all drivers of school vans do have a legitimate driving license."

However this is only the tip of the ice-berg. The Police can only nail a law breaker. But, have the law makers of this country have taken serious note of this new industry, which many a parent depends upon so much. Have they ever thought of regularizing it in such manner that there will only be an X number of passengers in a given Van, All passengers travelling in the vans are adequately covered in case such a need arises and the vehicles that carry such passengers are really road worthy? Are we contemplating action right now or are we awaiting to start moving in the right direction when a real disaster occurs and there is nothing the authorities could do.

Top to the page

Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.