ALIGHTING-STUDENT SCHOOL BUS SAFETY STILL MISUNDERSTOOD

By: supplied - New Year Jones


THE DEATH of a young student alighting from a bus on the NSW Central Coast two years ago highlights the need for societal attitudes towards road safety to be improved, according to a leading transport safety investigator.

ALIGHTING-STUDENT SCHOOL BUS SAFETY STILL MISUNDERSTOOD
Five-year-old Mariasusana Va'afusuaga died after being hit by a truck near her home at Rocky Point in April, 2017.

As reported on www.abc.net.au recently, deputy chief investigator of the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI), Kevin Kitchen, believes the dangers of children crossing roads was still widely misunderstood and was passionate about making change.

"Personally I think it's time we had a good look at ourselves about how we could contribute," Kitchen said.

"As a community we need to be a little bit more active."

The death of schoolgirl Mariasusana Va'afusuaga, who was hit and killed by a passing truck near her home at Rocky Point in April 2017, has drawn heightened attention to the issue.  

As the article notes, OTSI has recently released its final investigation report on the accident, which includes 13 recommendations.

In terms of the incident itself, the five-year-old had just stepped off the school bus and was attempting to cross the road when she was struck.

As detailed in the report, OTSI found that a radio call to the bus driver just before the crash delayed the bus from departing, which obstructed the view of the road for both the little girl and truck driver.

"[But] if you look at this case, everything was in order," Kitchen said.

"The main message is … we really need to be conscious that children are not little adults."

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FAMILY BACKING

Mariasusana Va'afusuaga family has fully supported the notion.

An aunt said the family had never been the same since the loss of her "beautiful" niece.

"Every time I go there, I see where the accident happened and it brings all the memories back. It's very hard," New Year Jones said.

"What we really want to see is the parents getting behind their children and being responsible for their safety.

"We just don't want to see what happened to our family happen to another family."

THE UPSHOT

The OTSI report made it clear children did not have the perceptual, cognitive and motor skills to safely cross the road without assistance from an adult.

Having investigated numerous similar tragedies, Kitchen strongly believed this was a fact not clearly understood by the general community.

"Our own observations when we're out on sites is we're all busy these days, and we have full lives," he said.

"Let's get back to that simple message: that children under eight need adult supervision roadside or when crossing the road.

"Under 10s are probably better around the roadside, but they too need adult supervision when crossing the road."

Targeted in the recommendations are parents, guardians and carers, NSW schools, bus operators, and Transport for NSW's Centre for Road Safety, Roads and Maritime.

KEY POINTS

A review of the effectiveness of the 40km/h speed limit for traffic passing a stationary school bus and whether this speed restriction should be further reduced has been recommended.

Existing road safety material should be provided to parents and carers of pre-school children to raise their awareness of the issue before they started primary school.

Bus operators were urged to restrict non-urgent communications to and from drivers at safety-critical times on school bus runs.

MAKING CHANGE

As reported, Kitchen maintained speed changes were a balancing act.

"We feel the strength is in the community starting to realise that we've got to look after these kids," he said.

The investigator felt so strongly that he pledged to write to every public, private and independent school principal across the state about the issue.

"Everybody is affected by it … you've got think about the consequences," he said.

"We've got the power to make some change, individually.

"Slow down around school buses. Ask yourself: can I stop now?"

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