Budget cuts drive down bus safety

SCHOOL bus safety is back on the community radar following the Federal Government's decision to axe the Seatbelts on Regional School Buses Program.

Bellingen school bus driver Warren Weick said it was disappointing the $1 million subsidy program had been scrapped in last week's Federal Budget.

It had delivered seatbelts to more than 400 busses across Australia since 2009.

In March, a seatbelt had saved Mr Weick's life after he was involved in a crash after finishing the school run.

Fortunately, he suffered only minor injuries, but said any program designed to increase vehicle safety "is vitally important."

"It's cutting money from the wrong places," he said.

"When buses are travelling on the Pacific Highway at speed, with no seat belts and with students standing in the aisles - it's a tragedy waiting to happen."

Sawtell Coaches manager Darren Williams had previously received funding approved through the program and said the cuts could delay the roll-out of seatbelts on older vehicles.

Opposition spokesman for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese said it was an absurd decision considering the program cost only $1 million a year but almost certainly had saved young lives.

"This fails the commonsense test," he said.

However, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs told media that the seatbelts on regional school buses program "was no longer achieving its road safety goals and was merely refunding private operators for the fitting of seatbelts that would have been installed anyway."

412 busses had received funding through the program that was created by the former Labor government in 2007 to improve safety on long-distance rides.

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