The School Bus Tragedies In Canada And India

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ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE

April 12, 2018 will forever remain significant in the global fight to rid the world’s roads of avoidable deaths arising from road traffic crashes which kills about 1.3million drivers, passengers and pedestrians yearly and up to 50million injured on the world’s roads. It was the day set aside for the launch of the United Nation Road Safety Trust Fund earlier adopted by the General Assembly comprising membership of all 139 member States. The launch was a major step in addressing the global road traffic crashes. I was privileged to receive an invitation from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to attend the launch held in New York, a city I have never been to. However, my joy and excitement was soured because just a week or two before the launch, the world was reminded of the deeply distressing tragedies in Canada and India which left families and communities distraught.

  Like I said earlier my excitement to visit New York and also witnessed history was cut short when Channels Television few days after scrolled on its news belt two tragedies involving school children in India and Canada. The death toll from both crashes was alarming not just in terms of the number killed but the fact that the victims were mostly school children who were as young as four years. Both crashes from available information were avoidable as probable causes of the Canadian crash was the failure of the trailer driver to yield to a stop sign before crossing over on to the highway that the hockey bus was travelling in addition to poor visibility on both roads caused by a stand of trees on the southeast corner of the intersection. The Indian crash was caused by speed and the resulting loss of control. The two school bus crashes remind of the piece I did about a month ago title, ‘’Averting the school bus tragedies.

Although I was saddened by the tragedies, their occurrence barely few days or a week before the April 12 event in New York was a sour and sad reminder to world leaders on the need to fast tract every intervention to save the world from such tragedies’. The tragedies especially the one in India reminded me of one of the piece I did long ago which I culled from Professor Deenish, my Indian Professor who wrote a piece I could not ignore titled, Carmagedon! The hidden war between motor cars and people. Let me refresh you with part of what he said in that piece- ‘’there is a silent, ongoing, global war between motor cars and people. It is silent because though it kills many more people than armed conflicts and terrorist acts combined, it seldom hits the headlines the way they do. It is ongoing because it rages and will continue to rage around us day and night. And it is global because though it started in the  rich world just over a century ago, it has spread throughout the world and is now spreading like wild fire through poor countries’’.

Let me start with the tragedy in Canada. According to news report, the crash occurred when a semi trailer slammed into a bus carrying a youth hockey team to a playoff game in western Canada.28people including the driver were on board the bus of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team when the crash occurred around 5pm on Highway 35 in Saskatchewan, killing 15 people and injuring 14 in a collision that a doctor compared to an airstrike and left the vehicles obliterated in the snow. In the words of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau,“An entire country is in shock and mourning,”  “This is every parent’s worst nightmare. No one should ever have to see their child leave to play the sport they love and never come back.”In a tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump said he called Trudeau to offer his condolences to the families of victims. Darren

This crash according to reports could have been avoided if the tractor-trailer had yielded to a stop sign before crossing over the highway that the hockey bus was travelling on. It also notes that there is a stand of trees on the southeast corner of the intersection; limiting visibility of the approach on both roads. Police said a lot of issues have to be investigated, including weather conditions at the time and any mechanical issues with the vehicles

The Indian bus tragedy was no different. Like the Canadian crash, this  crash was caused by the mistake of the driver which killed  at least 27 children ,some as young as four   after a  school bus plunged off a mountain road overnight into a deep gorge in the Himalayan foothills about 500 kilometers north of New Delhi. Four adults also died. Ten children were hospitalized. Initial reports indicated the bus driver was speeding as he took the children home and lost control at the edge of the gorge. 

The bus fell some 60 meters to the ground below. India’s roads, particularly in the hills, are feared for their deep potholes, reckless drivers and often a lack of guardrails. “I am deeply anguished by the loss of lives,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.“My prayers and solidarity with those who lost their near and dear ones.”What these tragedies have shown is that while improved road infrastructure is key, consistent driver education must remain a priority not just in developing but also developed countries.