School bus safety push matches parents' wishes

A Matamata couple behind a campaign to change laws surrounding school buses say a new safety report vindicates their efforts.

Grant Eastgate and Mandie Roband presented a 5550-signature petition to Parliament earlier this year, requesting changes to improve safety around school buses, including the compulsory fitting of warning lights to all school buses.

The couple's son, Jordan Eastgate, a year 8 pupil at Matamata Intermediate, was hit and killed by a car after he got off his school bus and ran across the road, about 10 kilometres east of Matamata, in May 2009.

Parliament's transport and industrial relations committee shelved the petition in September but a new report by Transport Engineering Research New Zealand (Ternz) has given further impetus to the Eastgate's campaign.

The report, which carried out trials on bus routes in and around Matamata, found a 20kmh illuminated sign mounted on school buses had a "significant effect" on traffic speeds.

The study recommends LED speed limit school bus signs be "progressed for use as soon as practically possible", with about 50 buses fitted initially to make sure units were robust.

Mr Eastgate said the report's recommendations were "a virtual carbon copy" of what their petition had asked.

Since 1987, 23 children died, 45 were seriously injured and 91 received minor injuries when crossing the road to or from a school bus.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Steven Joyce told the Waikato Times the ministry would review the report.

School buses were the safest means of transport for children and it was concerned about adding significant costs if we the benefits were not clear.

FACTBOX:

Ternz report foundings / recommendations: 20kmh illuminated bus signs have "significant effect" on traffic speeds. LED speed limit school bus signs should be be used as soon as possible.

If signs were used in greater numbers, motorists would soon become used to them. A publicity campaign is needed to raise awareness. Long-term monitoring is recommended to ensure appropriate road-user behaviour.

aaron.leaman@waikatotimes.co.nz

Waikato