Full-throttle drivers blind to kids at risk

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014

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Taranaki school bus operators have concerns for the safety of students using the service and are urging motorists to slow down as they pass.

New Zealand laws require drivers to slow down to 20kmh or less, no matter what direction they're travelling, when passing a school bus displaying signs that it has stopped to pick up or let off passengers.

The Taranaki Daily News was told a student was hit by a motorist in Midhirst last year after getting off a school bus.

Marion Webby, of Roadsafe Taranaki, said an estimated 7000 students used nearly 80 school buses each week day.

Ms Webby said safety was the biggest concern for school bus drivers and many had expressed their concerns caused by near-misses at a recent meeting.

"Be patient and consider the children on the bus before making a poor decision that could cost a child's life," she said.

"Do not pass a bus if you do not have clear visibility and if you choose to pass, slow down."

Rural roads posed the biggest danger due to the 100kmh speed limit.

Ms Webby said between 7.30am to 9am and 3pm to 4.30pm, most motorists were likely to meet a school bus somewhere.

"They came out of nowhere' is no excuse to explain why the child who had just got off a school bus was seriously hurt or killed by your vehicle because you couldn't stop in time," she said.

Tracey Pickering, managing director of Pickering Motors, said drivers appeared to be unaware of the potential dangers.

"If they hit the kids they are going to kill them, it's not going to be an injury it's going to be fatal," she said.

Ms Pickering said while driving from Opunake to New Plymouth she had slowed to 20kmh while passing a school bus and feared she would be hit from behind, as other motorists did not slow down.

ABC Tours owner Bruce Jamieson said drivers speeding past school buses had been a problem for years.

"The majority don't slow down, they just carry on past and they just don't want to know," Mr Jamieson said.

One of his drivers had confronted a woman who sped past while he was stopped and she was oblivious to what she'd done, Mr Jamieson said.

"We are all in a hurry and I think we just need to take a step back and slow down, but people don't."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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