'Horror stories' prompt bus safety campaign

20:33, Nov 20 2012

Too many "horror stories" about the risks to children using school buses has prompted a new road safety campaign in East Waikato.

Sergeants Jim Corbett of the Thames Strategic Traffic Unit and Neil Mansill, his Matamata-Piako counterpart, said the campaign was being driven by the community.

"School bus drivers have been coming in telling us horror stories about near-misses involving cars not slowing down for stationary school buses," said Mr Corbett.

"When spoken to by police many drivers claim ignorance of the requirement for vehicles travelling in both directions to slow down to 20kmh," he said.

Mr Mansill said the issue of safety around school buses was particularly sensitive in his area with the Waikato's last school bus related death taking place in Matamata in May 2009.

Jordan Eastgate, a 12-year-old student at Matamata Intermediate, was struck by a car after he got off his school bus and began to run across a 100kmh stretch of Tower Rd.

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Parents Grant Eastgate and Mandie Roband have spent the last three years fighting for major changes to improve safety around school buses.

They include fitting flashing warning lights on all school buses which are activated below a certain speed and to make compulsory the fitting of high-visibility signs on buses displaying the 20kmh passing limit.

"It has been an ongoing concern for us as a family since Jordan's accident," said Ms Roband.

"It's difficult for us to move on when we see people not adhering to the 20k rule."

The death of Matamata teenager Zak Lang in July this year had been hard for the family - Zak and Jordan went to intermediate together.

"I know the circumstances are different, but this community has lost two kids and a lot of people have lost two friends.

"We don't want it to happen to another family."

Mr Eastgate, a truck driver, said he frequently saw motorists breaking the 20kmh rule, in particular outside Matamata College.

"Someone's going to be killed outside that college one day," he said.

Mr Mansill said it was a case of good luck rather than good driver management that there had been no further deaths with "continuing" near-misses reported to police.

Police warn that children can be easily distracted and it was up to drivers to allow themselves enough time to react.

"The best way to do that is to comply with the requirement of reducing your speed around school buses dropping off or picking up children, a moment's hesitation can lead to a lifetime's regret," Mr Mansill said.

Matamata Chronicle