Farmers call for seat belts to be mandatory on school buses

Rural children often have to travel further to get to school than urban kids.
Rural children often have to travel further to get to school than urban kids. Photo credit: Getty

A new petition is calling for seat belts to be made mandatory on school buses, with a concern rural children in particular are at risk from seat belt-less travel. 

The petition was launched by Waitaki Valley farmer Philippa Cameron and has been backed by Federated Farmers. So far it has received more than 5000 signatures.

Federated Farmers health and safety spokesperson Karen Williams says due to the nature of rural life, children living in more remote parts of the country often depend more on school buses than their urban counterparts.

"The difference perhaps in rural areas is that they're potentially travelling a longer distance, at higher speeds, because they're open roads - not in town where they're between a 30 and 50km/h speed zone limit," Williams told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Thursday.

"And the very nature of rural roads [is] they can be windy and steep and poorly maintained at times, with gravel and high traffic loads with heavy trucks and things."

Williams said the lack of seat belt requirements in school buses flies in the face of the care parents take travelling with young children in their private vehicles, using car seats and capsules.

"There's a whole culture of looking after this precious little being and then at five we allow them to go on school buses and there's no requirement for them to be harnessed in. And it just seems wrong in my mind."

Another worry unique to rural areas was the lack of reliable cell phone coverage, Williams said.

"The other thing that is always really concerning is when there is an accident - and there are accidents, let's not fool ourselves - is getting service from your mobile to call an ambulance. 

"Do you have any idea how frustrating it is when you can't call emergency services?"

The petition closes on April 30.