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Why aren't seatbelts required on school buses? Fair Go investigates


Over 100,000 children hop on a school busses all over New Zealand every day.

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Whenever we get in a car we’re told to buckle up, and yet buses aren’t required to have them. Source: Fair Go

But one South Island mother is exasperated that when her soon-to-be five-year-old daughter heads off to school in one, she won’t even be wearing a seatbelt.

Pip Cameron wrote to Fair Go asking why Flora needs to be strapped in to her seat on the drive to the bus stop – but doesn’t need to be restrained on the school bus.

“Someone of Flora's height and weight should still be in a five-point harness,” Pip said.

“It seems strange that I could drive her to the bus stop with a restraint of some sort, a booster or a car seat, then she could hop on the bus with nothing.”

Currently, seatbelts in school buses are not compulsory – and sitting down isn’t mandatory either.

Pip’s conundrum isn’t a new one. For the past five years, a group of mothers in the North Canterbury town of Cheviot have been campaigning for seatbelts in school buses.

The group – called Belt Up – started their campaign after a bus crash in the town in 2014 saw a six-year-old girl propelled out of the bus and nearly run over.

They even put together some draft legislation which was passed over by this Government. And the last one.

The Government says buses are the safest form of transport and retroactively fitting seatbelts would be too expensive. A 2010 New Zealand Transport Authority report put the cost at roughly $80 million.

Belt Up’s Pip Sidey, who witnessed the bus crash in 2014, says that the way things are going someone will need to die before something is done.

One of the biggest bus companies in New Zealand, Ritchies, says it would welcome seatbelts being made compulsory. It notes that as seatbelts are not required by law, accounting for the cost of them can mean a tender bid isn’t commercially viable.

With tenders for school bus routes soon to be reopened, the Ministry of Education says it is working towards ensuring every student has a seat on a school bus.