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Call to change laws for school buses

Media Release

Safety concerns prompts call to change laws for school buses

Concern over student safety has sparked the New Zealand School Trustees Association to call on the Government to tighten up laws governing school buses.

At this weekend’s NZSTA annual conference in Wellington, more than 500 delegates voted in favour of calling for the introduction of seat belts to be installed in the front seats of buses. The delegates have also called for a change to current loading laws that allow students to stand in the aisles.

NZSTA national executive member Chris Haines says one group of Bluff parents has already shown their concern by launching a petition, which has been presented to local list MP Eric Roy.

“These parents have concerns about the safety of their children, and these feelings aren’t unique to this region. This is really about trying to be the fence at the top of the cliff, rather than the ambulance at the bottom. We aren’t looking at what has happened, but rather what they fear might happen.”

Chris Haines, who is also a policeman, says parents who see a bus overflowing with students sometimes think the bus company is at fault.

However, he stresses they are working within the legal requirements as set down by the Land Transport Safety Authority. The loading laws are currently being reviewed.

“Buses are allowed to have children standing in the aisles, but parents would rather see their children sitting than standing in the aisles.

“The companies aren’t breaking the laws, and at the end of the day a bus company is an economical unit, and they aren’t going to put on extra buses to carry people if they don’t have to. What is needed is a law change.”

He says there is also a funding issue and the reality is that the Government needs to increase its funding in this area. This means bus companies will put more buses on, and fewer students will have to stand.

Chris Haines says the conference also included a discussion on reminding schools to pass on to their parents that the speed limit to travel past a bus letting children on and off is 20 km/hr.

“There have been cases of where kids are hit by cars when they run out from behind a bus. Bus drivers do what they can to make sure kids stay on the side of the road until the bus goes, but sometimes they do take off and it is difficult to see them.”

[ends]

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