LOCAL group has added its weight to calls for seatbelts to be fitted to school buses as a matter of urgency.
The School Transport Action Group (STAG) has written to Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams and members of the NSW Cabinet calling for action on the School Bus Safety Advisory Committee Report.
The report, tabled in October last year, contains 35 recommendations including the installation of seatbelts on all regional and rural school buses operating outside lower-speed urban areas and a no-standing rule on school buses.
At this stage there has been no response from the State Government ,however, The Greens have updated their School Bus Safety Bill to bring forward implementation of the report’s recommendations.
STAG wants the State Government to demonstrate its “genuine concern for the safety of school students” by adopting all 35 recommendations in the advisory committee’s report and supporting The Greens’ School Bus Safety Bill.
STAG member Peter Rodgers wants the government to respond before the start of the new school year.
He said school bus safety was a major concern in the Hastings, particularly for families living south of Port Macquarie in towns such as Bonny Hills, Lake Cathie, Laurieton and North Haven.
He believes there is the potential for a serious accident on Ocean Drive, Houston Mitchell Drive (also known locally as the Ghost Road) and the Pacific Highway.
He said Houston Mitchell Drive was of particular concern because of the poor road surface, its level of usage by gravel trucks towing dog trailers and animal traffic including kangaroos and deers.
Buses using Houston Mitchell Drive also need to turn right onto the Pacific Highway.
Under current State Government policy, there is no requirement for students to be retrained or even to have a seat on high-speed routes.
In addition, there is no requirement for school bags to be restrained, despite the fact that some of them weigh as much as 10kg.
Even a sudden stop - without an actual collision – could result in serious injury, he said.
Mr Rodgers said he didn’t want the report placed in someone’s bottom draw and forgotten or for the State Government to wait for a serious accident before making a call on compulsory seatbelts.
NSW Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian said the State Government was still in the process of reviewing the report.
“I understand many people feel strongly about the safety of children on school buses in regional and rural areas,” she said.
“It is a very complex and emotive issue and the government is now considering the findings and recommendations of the report.”