PLAN A BELTER: Graham Cork, of Ballina High School P&C;, has endorsed the proposal to fit seatbelts on school buses.
PLAN A BELTER: Graham Cork, of Ballina High School P&C;, has endorsed the proposal to fit seatbelts on school buses.

Most rapt in bus belts behaviour

By Alex Easton

BALLINA High School P&C president Graham Cork has spent more than two years calling for seatbelts to be put on school buses.

Now it looks like his call might be answered in part.

Mr Cork's calls, along with those of other local parents and Ballina High principal Ros Mayberry, came after a busload of Ballina students was involved in a fatal crash near Coffs Harbour in July 2005.

That crash, which injured several students and killed four people in a car, was followed a month later by another at Ballina, this time full of students from Southern Cross K-12, that injured 11 children and two people from a car.

Yesterday, Mr Cork praised plans by the Commonwealth to spend $40 million fitting seatbelts to school buses in regional areas, despite claims the figure was a fraction of the project's likely cost.

"As far as I'm concerned, everyone has to wear seatbelts in cars," he said.

"Buses are just the same. This is an excellent move." Local bus operators Kirklands and Blanch's referred questions about the funding to the Bus and Coach Association of Australia, which said the money was welcome, but fell well short of the $1 billion retro-fitting NSW's fleet of school buses would cost.

Association executive director Darryl Mellish said that figure was based on a 2004 State Government report and included the cost of adding buses to make up for carrying capacity that would be lost by banning passengers from standing in buses.

Even then, Mr Mellish questioned how school buses would work under such rules.

"If you're driving a bus that has seat belts for 35 and there are 40 kids at the bus stop, do you just leave five behind?" he asked.

Would the driver be liable for letting children on a bus without seatbelts or for leaving them unsupervised by the side of the road where something might happen to them? Mr Mellish said most serious school bus safety issues tended to be external ones.



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