Not happy, Minister
By BREE PRICE and WILL JACKSON
COORABELL mum Virginia Peters is furious after Transport Minister John Watkins denied responsibility for fitting school buses with seat belts.
The mother-of-three wrote to the Minister with concerns about her 11-yearold daughter's safety on the bus to school, but in his written response Mr Watkins passed the issue to the Federal Government.
He said the State Government's School Bus Safety Working Group had found any plan to fit school buses with seat belts should be taken up by the Australian Transport Council, through the Australian Design Rule process, and implemented nationally.
Mrs Peters said it was an issue Mr Watkins should take responsibility for.
"He's the Minister for this State ? it's his responsibility to fix the transport situation in this State," Ms Peters said.
"It's an urgent issue and I don't think we should be waiting for everyone to come on line.
"I feel my job as a parent putting a child on the bus to jump up and down and say this is not right."
Education Department director-general Andrew Cappie-Wood has also entered the debate, calling for improvements in school bus safety.
Mr Cappie-Wood told The Northern Star he had asked the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to act on bus safety after school bus crashes involving local students at Coffs Harbour and Ballina.
Earlier this month a school bus was involved in a collision with a car at Angels Beach Drive, Ballina, only a month after a bus carrying a Ballina High School AFL team was in a head-on collision near Coffs Harbour.
"I have raised the matter with them and asked what they can do to improve safety," Mr Cappie-Wood said.
The RTA was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Ms Peters also said she found it insulting to be told buses are the safest way for kids to get to school.
"The working group has a belief that children have more chance of being killed walking or rid- ing to school and it's a ridiculous attitude," she said.
"That doesn't make it safe ? it's purely good fortune.
"This safety argument is simply illogical, as safety by definition suggests all appropriate precautions have been put in place to protect those at risk.
"While they're holding on to this statistic that buses are the safest way to travel, they've got no reason to make the investment (in seat belts) until they are forced to."
Ms Peters said she believed school buses should come under the same seat belt regulations as every other form of transport.
"We are conditioned to believe that driving a vehicle without a seat belt is so unsafe and negligent it is a punishable offence," she said.
"When that vehicle becomes the size of a cargo container and is filled with large numbers of children the rules change."
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