Jada Burns is the Gympie mother of two children injured in a bus accident in 2007.
Jada Burns is the Gympie mother of two children injured in a bus accident in 2007. Renee Albrecht

Mother's call: Get seat belts on all our school buses

JADA Burns lived a mother's nightmare when a speeding truck smashed into the school bus carrying her two children, aged 7 and 11, in September 2007 near Two Mile School.

Another bus crash in New South Wales this month has renewed her call for governments to fund seat belt installations in all Australian school buses.

"It was just so frustrating to see it still happening,” Mrs Burns said.

She described the "awful” day she was called to the emergency room to see her two children sitting on a stretcher, covered in dirt, blood and glass.

"No amount of compensation will ever fix what happened that day, so I think it's better to put the money into stopping these injuries happening,” she said.

"I don't want it to happen to another family.”

Her son suffered a broken hip and internal bleeding after he smashed through a window, and her daughter had neck injuries and a brain bleed from tumbling in the bus as it rolled.

Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester said compulsory seatbelts are on the way for all buses and will come in as bus fleets upgrade with new models.

Speaking in Gympie last week, he said older buses do not always have strong points in the places you need them for seatbelt installation, but seatbelts will be required on new buses as they come into service.

Polleys Coaches owner Warren Polley said most of the newer buses in his fleet had seat belts installed, but having seat belts on all school buses would be unworkable for most small bus companies.

The law requires that when seat belts are installed on a bus, the occupants may not be standing, but Mr Polley said this presented a "catch-22” scenario when there were too many students to have all seated on a particular day.

He said given the choice between having students standing in the bus and having to leave students behind, nobody wanted to create a "Daniel Morcombe” situation.

"It's a great idea... but it creates a whole bunch of problems.”

"I think as a parent of five kids, let alone an operator who carries 3000 kids every day, we're for the idea, but as an operator and a pragmatic person, we're sitting there going, 'How do we make this work?'”

He said retrofitting an older bus could cost $30,000-$50,000.

He said his priorities to reduce crashes were giving drivers excellent training and educating children to be better behaved to avoid distracting the driver, but any Polleys school bus that went out of town still had seat belts.

"We're still the safest form of transport out there, so lets continue that by training drivers, having good drivers and driving safely to avoid putting ourselves in a situation where seatbelts are needed,” he said.

Gympie Times


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