Slow uptake on bus seatbelts

THE rally by Valla parents last Friday for seatbelts on school buses is just the latest phase of what has already been a 10-year campaign for Glenda Staniford.

A founding member of BUS, the Belt Up for Safety Action Group, Ms Staniford has been appalled by the glacial pace of legislative change both federally and at a State level.

“In 1989, 55 people died in bus crash tragedies,” the South Coast-based campaigner said.

“By 1995 the government had introduced the Australian Design Rule 68 making seat belts compulsory for coaches – there has not been a single coach death since. But the law does not apply to route service buses, those buses with low-backed seats that drive the school routes along highways and narrow rural roads ... and there have been deaths, most recently three years ago in Urunga.”

Ms Staniford said of the $40 million Seatbelts for Kids fund set up by the Howard government in 2007, $37 million remained unused because there were no laws forcing bus companies to apply – “so they don’t”.

Federal parliamentary secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King, said the program encouraged “those operators who can run their bus routes with buses equipped with seatbelts to do so”.

“There have been five rounds of the program so far and funding has been offered to 126 bus operators to fit seatbelts on 204 buses. Around six applications have been received and successful applicants will be announced shortly,” Ms King said.

In Western Australia the transition to seat-belted buses has already been completed – within five years at a cost of $87 million.

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