It’s ‘inevitable’ that children in bakkies will be hurt — paramedic

2016-01-29 12:14
Pupils from Fezokuhle Primary School climb into bakkie taxis outside the school.

Pupils from Fezokuhle Primary School climb into bakkie taxis outside the school. ( Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - If a child is transported to school in a bakkie, it’s not a case of if they will be hurt, but when.

This is according to a Pietermaritzburg paramedic, who would not be named, who explained that in an accident, the human body travels at the same speed as the bakkie and, in a crash, the body continues moving until it is stopped either by the canopy or the sides of the vehicle.

The paramedic was speaking on the one-year anniversary of the Imbali horror crash that killed eight children. The Witness reported yesterday that ­bakkies remain a popular mode of transport for pupils in rural and some suburban areas.

“In a crash, everything inside the back of the bakkie — including children and wooden benches — are like missiles.

“They are all flying around the back of the bakkie at 60 km/h or more.”

He said if the canopy was made of fibre glass, it would shatter in the crash and produce shards that could injure the children.

“The types of injuries bakkie crashes inflict on children are usually blunt force trauma, penetration trauma, head and spinal injuries, and suffocation.

“We have been to accidents where three or four bodies are piled on top of someone and that causes a suffocating effect.”

He said it was “inevitable” that children travelling in the back of bakkies would be injured. “It’s not a case of if; it is a case of when.”

KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said yesterday that transporting children was not safe and, in essence, illegal.

“Children can be flung out of the bakkie, and any other person travelling in the back of the bakkie can be injured too.

“A bakkie is a goods compartment for the reason that is there is no seatbelt and no proper seats,” she said.

“Vehicles are custom-made and purpose-fit. A bakkie is a goods vehicle and as per the legislation, no occupants are supposed to be in the goods compartment. It is an offence.”

The KZN Transport Department yesterday said it was satisfied “with progress made in improving scholar transport safety in the province”.

The department announced measures to improve pupil transport safety, including targeted enforcement operations as part of ensuring compliance.

The interventions listed by the department include:

• a study to profile all schools using bakkies is currently under way, and will quantify the amount of intervention and resources required;

• engagements with the leadership of the public transport industry (taxis and buses) and bakkie operators are ongoing;

• a steering committee led by the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the department to integrate pupil transport under Santaco structures is under way;

• enforcement operations targeting pupil transport;

• an ongoing campaign to promote pupil transport safety; and

• the Transport and Education departments are working to improve and expand the subsidised pupil transport programme.

The department said the government had over 22 000 pupils being transported free of charge every day.

“The Imbali tragedy is a constant reminder that we should all work individually and collectively towards ensuring that the safety of our pupils, or any road user, is not compromised,” said MEC Willies Mchunu in a statement.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crash  |  accident

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