No standing on school buses, say NSW Catholic parents

It's time that school children had the same protection as coach passengers or any other road user, say Catholic school parents and principals who have joined with other community groups to call for improved safety measures for rural school buses in NSW.

The Council of Catholic School Parents group was one of several organisations to address a crisis meeting about bus safety in country areas, held in Sydney on Wednesday.

According to the Council, concerned parent groups decided at the meeting on further action to ensure the improved safety of children who are travelling on school buses throughout rural NSW in speed zones of 80 km/h and above.

Meeting participants said it was "time for the NSW Government to end the stalling and take action on rural school bus safety now."

The groups say that they have been calling for improved internal safety measures on rural school buses in NSW since 2001.

The meeting called for the commitment of taxpayer funds to advance three objectives for every rural school bus which travels in a speed zone of 80 km/h and over.

The objectives include eliminating the Ministry of Transport policy requiring students to stand; eliminating the policy which requires three primary school students to share a standard bus seat designed for two people; and introducing legislation for every new and/or replacement school bus to comply with certain standards, such as compulsory lap/sash seat belts and high backed seats.

These objectives are in keeping with the priorities that have been identified and implemented in some other states of Australia to minimise the risk of injury or death to children travelling on high risk routes, the Catholic parents say.

According to the ABC, a barrister for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Rob Davis, says he fully supports the campaign.

"It's almost third world stuff," he said.

"You wouldn't allow a child to stand in the back of a van. You'd be arrested and taken away for endangering children but of course in New South Wales, the Government actually encourages that sort of conduct."

The Transport Minister, John Watkins, has rejected suggestions that school buses in rural NSW are unsafe.

He says there needs to be a uniform national approach to improving bus safety.

School Bus Safety Crisis Roundtable (Council of Catholic School Parents, Media Release, 9/8/06)
Lawyers group to support school bus safety campaign (ABC South East NSW 10/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Association of Catholic School Principals

11 Aug 2006