|Rural Women New Zealand
The safety of students travelling to and from school is one of the most critical issues facing rural school communities.
Rural Women New Zealand is working with the New Zealand Transport Agency - Waka Kotahi - to improve rural school bus safety and wants to hear of any concerns rural parents may have.
RWNZ is particularly worried that many drivers are failing to observe the speed restriction for passing a school bus that has stopped to pick children up on the way to school or drop them back home. This is especially a problem in areas where the road speed is 100km/h.
When passing a school bus, vehicles are required by law to limit their speed to 20km/h. This limit applies even if the school bus has stopped on the opposite side of the road to your direction of travel.
Mary McTavish, RWNZ Region 5 Leader says, for many years, RWNZ has been requesting signs on school buses warning passing drivers to travel at 20km/h if the bus is stationary.
“We have also been asking for all school buses in rural areas to have flashing lights activated by the driver when the bus is slowing to drop off or pick up children,” Mary says.
Such flashing signs on school buses warning of the legal passing speed have been trialled, yet national usage has not been made mandatory.
For some time, RWNZ has raised concerns that the safety of children travelling by bus is further compromised by busy rural roads frequented by large vehicles such as logging trucks and milk tankers.
The organisation has also questioned the inconsistent quality and irregular maintenance of rural roads. When combined with inappropriate speeds, poor signage and a diverse range of road users, these issues can lead to serious injuries and fatalities in rural regions.
The 2020 Waka Kotahi Safer Journeys for Schools: guidelines for school communities identified unsafe bus stopping locations and students walking from drop-off points to their homes as a problem, especially for rural schools.
“Most of our rural roads do not have the luxury of footpaths and areas where a school bus can actually pull off the road are few and far between,” Mary says.
Other issues raised by RWNZ include students having to stand due to a lack of seating and whether there should be safety belts on school buses, particularly when the bus is travelling on the open road.
In order to pass them on to Waka Kotahi for inclusion in the project, RWNZ is calling on all rural residents to send in any experiences they may have regarding these issues to email@example.com.