Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bus Schoolbus Seatbelts Schoolkids Seatbelts for school buses The Age July 10th 2013 Public Transport

Seatbelts for school buses

Jewel Topsfield and Adam Carey July 10, 2013
Emily and her mother Susan.
Schoolgirl Emily Blake, pictured with her mother Susan, suffered brain damage in a bus crash, inspiring the safety push. Photo: Vicky Hughson
Seatbelts are to be introduced on Victorian school buses, bringing victory to campaigning parents alarmed by injuries to children on country roads.
Every new and replacement bus will be fitted with belts from this year.
Areas with the highest accident risk may be the first to get the safer buses.
Currently most school buses in regional Victoria do not have seatbelts, even though they often travel at 100km/h, because route buses and those with fewer than 17 seats are exempt from federal safety standards that require all buses built or imported after 1995 to have them.
But in a letter seen by Fairfax Media, Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder says Public Transport Victoria has approved funding to replace about 80 to 90 older school buses a year with buses that meet the safety standards.
In the letter, dated May 13, Mr Mulder wrote: ''From mid-2013, PTV will require all new and replacement dedicated free school buses to be fitted with seatbelts, further enhancing safety.''

Public Transport Victoria will also act on the findings of a study of school bus safety that has identified the state's highest-risk routes. Those routes could be the first to have buses with seatbelts.
The decision is a victory for parent groups representing children at state and private schools, who banded together to lobby the state government to mandate seatbelts.
The campaign came after 10-year-old schoolgirl Emily Blake suffered brain damage in a bus crash near Warrnambool in 2009 and six-year-old Shayla Perry was injured last year when a bus braked sharply near Alexandra.
Emily Blake's mother Susan, who met with Mr Mulder two months ago, said the funding for 80 to 90 buses a year was good news but cautioned it would take many years to replace the entire fleet of about 1600 dedicated free school buses in Victoria.
''Ultimately we would like it to happen a lot quicker, but this is a step in the right direction,'' Ms Blake said.
The decision to require all new school buses to have seatbelts marks a change of heart for Mr Mulder. Last year he wrote to
Bernie Geary, Commissioner for Children and Young People, saying a 2002 report prepared for the Australian Transport Council concluded seatbelts on buses would be expensive and would not contribute materially to a reduction in the road toll.
The chief executive of Bus Association Victoria, Chris Lowe, said the government had taken a prudent approach to improve school bus safety.
''It's cost-prohibitive to install them in every bus but you can install them as you replace old buses,'' Mr Lowe said.
Leon Hain, a member of the Victorian committee of the Australasian College of Road Safety, said the change was ''a start'' but it was just as important to stop putting urban route buses on regional school bus routes. ''They may look nice, they may look modern, but some have got floors that slope up the back which means … you're going to be hurled off your seat as Emily was at 70km/h.''



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