School death is a re­minder to drive cau­tiously

▶ The school run is a par­tic­u­larly haz­ardous time, when har­ried par­ents are up against the clock

The National - News - - OPINION -

The death of a child is ev­ery par­ent’s worst night­mare – par­tic­u­larly when the cir­cum­stances are sense­less and eas­ily pre­ventable. Yet that is the hor­ror fac­ing the grief-stricken par­ents of In­siya Vasihi af­ter the four-year-old girl was killed on Mon­day by a car re­vers­ing at speed in the grounds of Green­field In­ter­na­tional School in Dubai. In­siya died at the scene while her mother, who was struck with her, is be­ing treated in hos­pi­tal for mul­ti­ple frac­tures. The in­ci­dent is com­pounded by the fact that the girl was within school grounds, where her par­ents un­doubt­edly thought she was safe from harm. Yet this is sim­ply the latest fa­tal­ity in­volv­ing young chil­dren fall­ing vic­tim to bad driv­ing and the sec­ond known in­ci­dent in a month in which a tragedy of its kind has played out. Last month, school se­cu­rity guard Lil Ba­hador Pari­yar was knocked to the ground and killed by a speed­ing car that mounted the kerb. In both cases, po­lice have blamed drivers hit­ting the ac­cel­er­a­tor in­stead of the brake.

They are all the more shock­ing be­cause they oc­curred ei­ther by the school gates or in school car parks. Schools are sup­posed to be in­sti­tu­tions that pro­tect chil­dren. These in­ci­dents re­quire ur­gent ac­tion from teach­ers, par­ents and ed­u­ca­tional bod­ies to en­sure strin­gent rules apply both within and out­side school grounds, par­tic­u­larly for those drop­ping off or pick­ing up chil­dren. Vig­i­lance is needed from both drivers and school staff to en­sure lives are not en­dan­gered.

The is­sue of road safety, how­ever, goes be­yond the purview of school man­age­ment. In Au­gust, Abu Dhabi Po­lice re­leased a video warn­ing drivers of the dan­gers of re­vers­ing with­out look­ing. It fol­lowed the death in Sharjah ear­lier this year of a 17-month-old, who was run over by a neigh­bour’s car, and an 18-mon­thold girl killed in Abu Dhabi in 2016 when her fa­ther ran over her.

De­spite re­peat calls for safer driv­ing, a sur­vey this week found one in five drivers in the UAE had been in­volved in a road ac­ci­dent in the past six months. This is a shock­ing num­ber that the gov­ern­ment is work­ing to re­duce by en­forc­ing a num­ber of road safety cam­paigns. Last month, for ex­am­ple, Abu Dhabi Po­lice re­leased a video show­ing a driver veer­ing across sev­eral lanes of a road filled with mov­ing traf­fic be­fore smash­ing into a ditch. In that case, mo­bile phone use was to blame, but there are fre­quent ex­am­ples of bad be­hav­iour on the road, from fail­ing to wear seat­belts, fall­ing asleep at the wheel, fail­ing to in­di­cate and tail­gat­ing. There are cur­rently 4.4 deaths on the road per 100,000 peo­ple in the UAE, but one death is one too many.

It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery driver to en­sure all pedes­tri­ans, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren, are pro­tected from haz­ards they do not un­der­stand. The school run is fre­quently car­ried out by har­ried par­ents nav­i­gat­ing choked streets dur­ing rush hour and watch­ing the clock. Tak­ing 10 min­utes ex­tra to carry out a smooth and safe drop-off or pick-up could save lives. Af­ter all, no par­ent or driver should be­grudge tak­ing a few ex­tra min­utes to en­sure a child gets to live.

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