School bus campaign a lesson for drivers

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:00 13/09/2012
Dave Thompson
MARTIN de RUYTER/Fairfax NZ

SPEED KILLS: Nelson police officer Dave Thompson uses a laser speed gun to measure the speed of motorists driving past an empty school bus during an operation on Main Road Stoke, to remind drivers that the speed limit when passing a stationary school bus is 20kmh.

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The message is slowly getting through but people are still driving too fast past school buses.

Police and road safety campaigners from Nelson City and Tasman District councils are running a campaign to educate drivers that the speed limit for passing a parked school bus is 20kmh in both lanes on the road.

The fine varies depending on the speed drivers go past the bus, but those clocked at 50kmh risk a $230 ticket and 35 demerit points.

Police were on Main Rd, Stoke and Lower Queen St, Richmond yesterday and stopped 250 drivers.

Constable Carol Heiford of the strategic traffic unit said the police presence was visible and they were not trying to entrap people.

While the campaign was in its educational phase, police will issue tickets in the coming weeks to drivers who break the speed limit.

At least double the number of drivers slowed yesterday compared with last week, she said.

Last Tuesday police parked a school bus on Main Rd Stoke, Tahunanui and Richmond, with the distinctive yellow School Bus signs displayed. They then monitored passing traffic, stopping and talking with any drivers who exceeded the 20kmh speed limit.

The campaign caught 98 out of 100 drivers speeding past a school bus.

She said people had been positive about the campaign, and a lot of people had remarked they had not even seen the bus when they passed it. Many people mistakenly said they thought the speed limit was 40kmh for travelling past a school bus.

The few people that did know the rules were parents of young children.

She said the reason for the speed limit was because children were unpredictable.

An accident in the majority of times might not be the driver's fault, but if a child was was hit at 50kmh it was almost guaranteed they would die.

The risk of death decreased according to the speed the driver travelled.

In some countries such as the United States school buses had flashing lights on the bus.

This was not the case in New Zealand, and she personally believed some changes were needed in that area.

However, she said drivers needed to be more aware of school buses.

If buses have stopped and are parked on the side of the road, bus drivers were legally required to take down the school bus signs.

In August 2010 an off-duty police officer in a 4WD vehicle hit Nelson schoolboy Joseph Cotton.

Joseph, who was 11, suffered critical head injuries, a bruised lung, bleeding in his liver and a broken arm in the accident, which occurred when he was hit crossing the road after he got off his school bus in Atawhai on August 19.

Police reconstruction of the accident estimated the officer was driving at between 18 and 32kmh when the accident occurred.

Last month Mahuri Bettjeman-Manawatu, 5, was killed after he was hit by the bus he had got off only moments earlier as it turned a corner in the small coastal town of Hector, north of Westport, on Tuesday afternoon.

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- The Nelson Mail

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