Alarms help drivers, teachers patrol buses

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Alarms help drivers, teachers patrol buses

In Gwangju, when children are accidentally left behind on a school bus, they are taught to press a button that sounds alarms outside the vehicle. A motion detection system will also trip the wire if it detects a child onboard.

The Gwangju Education Office mandated all kindergarten, elementary and special education school buses to include an alarm system in October 2016 after a 4-year-old boy was trapped for eight hours in an overheated bus on a hot summer day and nearly suffocated to death.

Another system on Gwangju buses triggers an alarm when a driver turns off the engine. The only way to shut off the alarm is to walk through the entire bus and press a button in the back. In the process, a driver can scan the rows for any children still onboard.

Gwangju is the only city in Korea where the local education office has mandated the installation of such an alarm system to prevent incidents like the one in 2016. According to the Gwangju Education Office, 523 buses in the city have at least one of these alarm systems installed.

The example of Gwangju has re-entered the national conversation after a 4-year-old girl was found dead on Tuesday inside an overheated day care center bus in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi. She was trapped in the bus for more than seven hours.

Parents have been calling for a nationwide regulation mandating day care center and kindergarten buses to install alarm systems. Multiple petitions have appeared on the Blue House website since Tuesday demanding such an ordinance.

Although Gwangju is the only city where the education office expressly mandated alarm systems on buses, it is not the only one using such buses. Last year, the Yongin city government in Gyeonggi, not the education office, installed a similar system on about 200 kindergarten buses. An alarm goes off when the engine is turned off, and a teacher or driver needs to tap a card on a sensor installed on the back of the bus to turn it off.

“It’s a measure to prevent accidents, but what’s most important is for teachers and drivers to responsibly and safely help children attend kindergartens and schools,” said Yang Seok-seung, 61, a driver in Yongin.

BY KIM HO, CHOI MO-RAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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