NRMA wrong on seat belts


The NRMA ‘got it wrong’ on what was agreed at a recent meeting of the NSW school bus safety committee

NRMA wrong on seat belts
NRMA wrong on seat belts

By David Goeldner | October 7, 2011

New South Wales’ peak motoring body – the NRMA – ‘got it wrong’ when reporting the outcome of a recent meeting of the state’s School Bus Safety Community Advisory Committee.

BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish, pictured, says the NRMA’s journal incorrectly stated that there was likely to be a recommendation to mandate seat belts on school buses.

"I know that this is not the case," Mellish says.

"The committee has not formed any recommendations yet, and I know that the NRMA will be publishing a retraction in their next available journal," he says.

Mellish says some members of the NSW Government-sanctioned committee are keen to promote their own interests, with some members strongly advocating seat belts.

"I was certainly at the meeting and we are still some time away from drafting recommendations, so I don’t know how the NRMA got that story but its incorrect," he says.

The September 29 meeting was the third in a series of advisory committee meetings and the process so far has been to collect information about school bus safety in preparation for creating a management tool and draft recommendations.

"I think what’s emerging in the committee is that there is community expectation for seat belts on certain school buses, but the evidence is showing that other methods might be better to mitigate risk," Mellish says.

He says data is being collected and analysed which relates to risk outside the bus being higher than risk on the bus.

"This information is coming from police investigation and accident data, and also from the Transport Department’s critical incidents data base," Mellish says.

Data is also being compiled from coronial inquiries involving bus accidents.

"So this analysis is not complete, but the committee’s terms of reference do strongly support evidence-based recommendations," says Mellish.

He says the bus industry is working cooperatively with the committee to come up with an effective solution.

"If there is money to be spent on school bus safety, we want it to be put where it does the most good," Mellish says.

"It might be improving road conditions, widening roads, better signage, driver training or changing the bus route."

Mellish is aware of the ‘anti-seat belt’ sentiment in some sections of the school bus sector, with many operators concerned about reduced seating capacity and added expense of fitment if seat belts became mandatory.

"The capacity issue and the cost for most operators are very important," he says.

"The NSW Government has assured us that if seat belts are the outcome that’s needed, then the extra cost will be funded."

The advisory committee soon travels to northern NSW to spread the message, canvass opinion from schools, parents, and school bus operators – particularly those working regional ‘Environment 3’ routes.

"It’s intended that the committee visit regional areas and travel on Environment 3 routes, so as a committee we are keen to experience what the students experience," Mellish says.

"Obviously the north coast of NSW is one of the areas we will visit because if you look at the submissions, this is a region where high speed highway running is a concern to many parents."

Mellish says in the interest of transparency, all 112 submissions have been collated on the Transport NSW website including the minutes of each meeting, at www.transport.nsw.gov.au/school-bus-safety-community-advisory-committee.

The next School Bus Safety Community Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for mid-November.

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