United Safety has recently received more and more questions about its Child-Check Mate product after a spate of dangerous incidents involving children being left onboard buses.
There are many dangers that can be present onboard public transport vehicles, including buses and coaches. The team at United Safety & Survivability Corporation (United Safety) has spent its history providing systems that curb these dangers and enhance the safety of buses.
For all of its impressive and complex systems that mitigate against fire and tyre pressure risks, none are more important than United Safety’s Child Check-Mate system.
“We’ve always been a supplier of the Child Check-Mate product in Australia, but we now officially own and distribute it worldwide,” United Safety National Transport Business Development Manager Mick Hall told ABC.
“There have been several incidents around Australia recently of children being left on buses in extreme weather and sadly passing away as a result. This system saves lives by preventing this from happening.”
Originating from North America, Child Check-Mate is a mandatory process that prevents drivers from getting off buses without checking that no passengers have been left onboard. The system was first introduced into Australia several years ago when the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia (PTA) mandated child checking systems on the state’s school buses.
This wave of Child Check-Mate systems being installed in WA has increased the product’s popularity, with Hall saying now other states are hopping on the trend and adopting the protective equipment.
As incidents continue to occur where children are being left onboard buses, Hall and his team at United Safety are fielding plenty of inquiries about the Child Check-Mate product.
“Some childcare centres have recently introduced Child Check-Mate into their new bus fleets with positive results and peace of mind,” Hall says.
“We’re also receiving inquiries from some large bus operators, so it’s definitely gaining traction around Australia.”
Although it plays a vital role in keeping passengers, particularly children, safe on buses, it works in a simple fashion.
The analogue process forces the bus driver to get out of their seat upon finishing their shift and walking up to the back of the bus while checking all the seats to press a button and deactivate the Child Check-Mate system. If they do not complete this task within approximately 30 seconds, the system will activate a siren, horn and lights to notify the driver and or operator to complete the correct deactivation process.
This simple process creates another level of safety for the operator where all drivers are mandated to perform the post shift process. The operator can then introduce this into a recorded safety system and verify that the Child Check-Mate system was activated and deactivated in accordance with company operational orders.
With incidents still occurring, most recently in Victoria and South Australia and only a few years after a tragic death in Queensland, Hall says the United Safety system couldn’t be more appropriate for Australian operators.
“For a huge return on an inexpensive investment, Child Check-Mate is the leader in the industry,” Hall says.
“It’s not a complicated process, the driver has an extra 60 seconds of work at the end of a shift, so if there’s a bus operator that can’t afford this peace of mind, I’d be fairly surprised.
“The system provides a reminder that United Safety products save lives and assets. The Child Check-Mate system allows the drivers to save lives and protect our most valuable asset in our children.”
Since WA first mandated Child Check-Mate in its school bus fleet, Hall says there have been no serious incidents of children being left behind on buses in WA.
It’s this success rate that has grown the product’s popularity, first in WA and then further around Australia.
“The sales have always been steady in WA, but they’re now growing after the most recent incidents in Victoria and South Australia,” Hall says.
“It’s popular because it’s a very inexpensive insurance policy – you need it to ensure no child is left behind to give operators and parents peace of mind that the bus company has the best interests of the customers in mind.
“It allows operators to show the surrounding community that they are doing the right thing to protect all passengers.”
Hall says although Child Check-Mate isn’t a unique product idea in Australia, it has clear advantages over its competitors.
He says other products are able to be circumvented by inappropriate measures or shortcuts, while Child Check-Mate is failsafe as it forces the driver to physically get up and walk to the back of the bus to press a button that deactivates the system. This process cannot be manipulated.
Along with the alarm, lights and siren that activate if the system is not disengaged, there is also an audible notification to the driver that the system has been activated upon turning the ignition off.
The driver is prompted to undertake the task and if they fail to complete this vital step, Child Check-Mate will communicate this failure and force someone to return to the bus to investigate and complete the process.
“It’s not an inconvenience or a complicated process, in fact it’s very basic in its operation but very effective in its simplicity,” Hall says.
“For the sake of saving one child’s life, $650 is a great return on investment.”
United Safety hope that Transport for NSW school bus operators will take up this option sooner rather than later when a replacement comes around.
If this does happen, Hall says NSW operators could join the likes of Australian child care operator Busy Bees and Queensland school bus operator John Townsend who have been proactive in championing the product and keeping their valuable passengers safe.
In the meantime, United Safety also has other school bus operators in regional NSW and Victoria who have adopted the system and are currently getting them installed. Hall wants to see the vitally important system become a compulsory part of all school buses in Australia to stop kids from facing the dangers of being left onboard a bus.
“It’s not a massive ticket item, but I hope we sell thousands so that every school and childcare operator in Australia has it on their buses,” Hall says.
“The last thing as a parent that would cross your mind is sending your child off on a bus and not having them return – no parent should expect that. Child Check-Mate can prevent these tragedies from occurring.”