Parents are calling for seat belts to be installed on Sydney school buses

“I don’t buy that. If this were the case in a car, young children would not have to be buckled up every time they got into a vehicle. Why is a bus tax-free? It should be about security, not money.”

David Hope, President of the Northern Sydney District Council of P&C Associations, said that city parents, like their regional counterparts, wanted seat belts on school buses.

“Safety is a priority for parents and their children and we would support seat belts on buses,” he said. “The buses of the expensive private schools are all equipped with seat belts.”

Ten people were killed in the bus crash in the Hunter Valley on Sunday.

Ten people were killed in the bus crash in the Hunter Valley on Sunday.Credit: Nick Moir

Libby Clarke, Vice President of Marsden Park Public P&C, supported the introduction of seat belts on all school buses. “It would cost an absolute fortune, but you can’t put a price on how much a person is worth,” she said.

“If your kids aren’t under your supervision, worry, but knowing they’re strapped on a bus would alleviate a small part of that.”

According to Transport for NSW, school buses in rural and regional NSW face different safety risks than buses in urban areas, including frequent driving on unpaved roads, over long distances and on roads outside urban areas with speed limits of 80km/h and above.

Under Australian regulations, buses classified as “route service buses” that include school services, or buses with passenger seat backs less than one meter high, are not required to wear seat belts.

Tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the state use the Opal student card to ride public buses every day.

A spokesman for Transport Secretary Jo Haylen said the government is working with the Transport Authority, safety authorities and experts to restore confidence in the safety of the bus network for passengers and drivers. “The minister will have more to say on this matter shortly,” he said.


The Deputy Director of the Transport and Road Safety Research Center, Jake Olivier, said the speed at which school buses typically travel is a key factor in deciding whether seat belts should be fitted. “It makes more sense in regional areas than in urban areas,” he said.

Olivier said installing seat belts on buses used for both school trips and regular public transport is logistically problematic. “It would be difficult to drive buses [in urban areas] if people couldn’t get up,” he said.

While private schools may have dedicated vehicles, those transporting children in Sydney are used on both regular public transport and school trips.

The Rail Tram and Bus Union, which represents drivers, said it was impractical to fit seatbelts on city buses and then monitor the wearing of those seatbelts.

“If you wear seat belts, it means there are no standing passengers. You’d have to have most of the fleet retrofitted, and that’s impractical,” said department secretary David Babineau.

The $237 million project to install seat belts across the state’s fleet of nearly 2,600 regional school buses was completed early last year.

The government has since decided to expand the project to a number of outer metropolitan areas where school buses operate on high-risk roads.

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Justin Scaccy

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