To help tackle congestion on Qatar’s roads, the National Traffic Safety Committee is working to get more students to ride to school on buses.
Currently, thousands of children are driven to classes in private vehicles each day. This causes heavy traffic buildup in the mornings and afternoons, NTSE General Manager Kim Jraiw told the Qatar Tribune.
In 2012, only about one-third of schoolchildren here used buses, according to the now-defunct Rand-Qatar Policy Institute.
This has since increased to more than half of all schoolchildren, Jraiw said. But that’s still not enough, he added:
“Our aim is to make at least 80 percent of the total 300,000 students in the country use school buses. If this target is achieved, it will keep at least 50,000 personal vehicles off the roads in morning and afternoon peak hours.”
He said the NTSE is now working to select 11 independent schools in a pilot project that will entail urging parents to try out school buses.
There are many reasons why parents don’t use school buses, including convenience, flexibility and reliability, according to Rand.
But one of the main factors is safety concerns, given the high rate of road collisions in Qatar.
For example, earlier this year, a 5-year-old child died and some of his peers were hospitalized after their school bus got into an accident.
And just days later, dramatic footage of a school bus colliding with a pickup truck and small sedan went viral.
No children were injured, but the accident sparked fears nonetheless.
However, according to Jraiw, reducing the overall number of vehicles on Qatar’s roads is one big way to improve safety.
He added that Mowasalat has state-of-the-art vehicles that are expected to be rolled out to more schools in the future.
Indeed, last year, the state-backed transportation company announced plans to massively increase its fleet of schools buses by 42 percent to 780 vehicles.
This was despite declining public demand and limited interest in parents.
At the time, the company said it was experimenting with a new smartphone app that would allow buses to be tracked via GPS.
In its school bus report, Rand also recommended bus drivers be better trained and paid.
It added that TVs should be installed on-board to provide education and entertainment in traffic, among other suggestions.
However, it did not recommend seat belts be made a requirement on buses.