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New Seatbelt Requirement For School Minibuses

Education Minister Nick Smith today announced, as part of Kidsafe Week, that all school minibuses would be required to have seatbelts installed for Ministry of Education school bus contracts.

"Kidsafe Week requires that we all focus on improving safety for children. The debate over seatbelts in school buses has often been raised. Research shows that children in large buses are very safe because of their size and strength, but children are less safe in minibuses. The new requirement, that all minibuses have seatbelts installed, will help improve the safety of thousands of children who travel to and from school in these vehicles. It will also help instil in these children a seatbelt culture for when travelling in other vehicles."

The new requirement applies to buses of gross weight up to 3.5 tonne, which generally carry between eight and sixteen children. These minibuses, or small passenger service vehicles, have become increasingly popular with small rural communities. The new seatbelt requirement will be phased in by requiring all new minibus contracts to include a new seatbelt clause requiring their installation in all seats. Operators will be able to include the increased cost in their tenders as they come up for renewal.

"This requirement is over and above that currently required by law and the Land Transport Safety Authority. Children are compelled to attend school and we should go the extra mile to ensure their safety. There are other areas, such as bus age, for which the Ministry of Education sets standards above the bare minimum legal requirement."

Dr Smith emphasised that travelling by school bus was one of the safest forms of transport in New Zealand. 100,000 students travel to and from school each day for an average 20 km, which equates to a million trips per week. The greatest safety risk for pupils is not the trip to and from school, but getting on and off the bus. A new pamphlet has been produced and distributed during Kidsafe Week to provide simple safety tips for students who use school buses. The pamphlet is produced by the Land Transport Safety Authority, Bus and Coach Association, Ministry of Education, Police and Safekids.

"We need to make the journey to school as safe as possible. As well as keeping our kids safe on the bus, we need to make sure they are safe getting on and off the bus. Parents can do simple things like parking their car on the same side of the road as the bus, having a plan if they are running late to pick up their child and adding reflective strips to children's bags or jackets to help make their child safe."


ENDS


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