Principals call for seat belts in school buses
By DAWN COHEN
TWO BALLINA school principals are supporting further investigation into the use of seat belts on school buses, following accidents involving their students.
Ros Mayberry, principal of Ballina High School, has called for mandatory usage of the seat belts if the students have to travel on the Pacific Highway, particularly where there are 100 km/h speed limits.
Southern Cross School K-12 principal John Baker added that standing on buses also would lead to the chances of greater injury in an accident.
At present seat belts are compulsory in light vehicles and long-distance coaches with highback chairs commonly used as tourist vehicles. They are not compulsory on buses.
"It's a great concern that there is a potential for increased risk vulnerability as a result of standing and being unrestrained," Mr Baker said yesterday.
"We cannot solve this issue as individul schools, but the relevant authorities need to consider options."
Their call for action follows two major accidents involving their students.
Last Thursday morning a Blanch's Bus Service vehicle carrying 39 Southern Cross K-12 students collided with a sedan at a Coast Road junction, seriously injuring two occupants in the car.
Eleven students were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
The crash came a month after a bus transporting a Ballina High School AFL team collided with a Tarago near Coffs Harbour, killing four people in the van.
"If students can't stand on buses it means more buses are needed, and in these days of economic rationalism that is going to be a problem." Mr Baker said.
Darryl Mellish, executive director of the NSW Bus and Coach Association, believes mandatory seat belts on school buses would be an emotional expenditure.
"Seat belts on school buses would not be as cost-effective in preventing student deaths as educating youth on safety in walking around buses," he said.
"The bus industry is voluntarily responding to schools' preference for seat belts, but that preference is more emotional than scientific."