She says a loophole in government regulations allow schools to hire charter buses without seatbelts.
Gillian John said she was first alerted to the problem when her Arbor Grove Primary student daughter was involved in an incident last year while travelling in a hired bus on the way to swimming lessons.
‘The kids were thrown off their seats and almost hit their heads when the bus stopped suddenly to avoid hitting a car,’ she said.
‘Before that, I think a lot of people, like me, thought it was law that school buses had to have seatbelts.’
Mrs John said after she investigated, she found that only orange government school buses were required to have seatbelt by law.
‘Because schools can hire other buses for school excursions, they fall into this loophole where they don’t have to have the belts,’ she said.
Mrs Johns said she had contacted Arbor Grove principal John Latham to ask why the school continued to use buses without seatbelts. She was told it was ‘a cost-related decision’.
‘He explained that the extra cost per bus would be $100 to $150 and that he had a duty of care to parents who couldn’t afford that much,’ she said.
Mrs Johns said she later heard from a friend whose child goes to Malvern Springs Primary School that their charter bus had seatbelts and only cost about $55 more.
Mrs Johns said she contacted Mr Latham again last week, presenting him with letters of concern from parents and information regarding Malvern Springs’ excursion costs. She is yet to receive a response.
She is also considering starting a petition to the State Government seeking the regulations be changed to insist on schools hiring charter buses with seatbelts.
The Advocate contacted Mr Latham, who said the school was looking at its options.
‘We are still investigating the feasibility of hiring buses fitted with seatbelts,’ he said.
‘We will discuss this issue with parents, because we want to provide as safe an option as possible, without taking the cost out of the reach of some parents.’
WA Department of Education executive director infrastructure John Fischer said schools were strongly encouraged to use buses with seatbelts, although there was no legislative requirement for them to do so.
‘Student and staff safety should always be the primary consideration,’ Mr Fischer said.
‘Where it is not possible to hire a bus fitted with seat belts, principals are advised to adopt a risk management approach when hiring a charter bus.’
Vox pop, |page 6