A driver and 17 children were trapped in a homeward bound school bus for 30 minutes today after it struck a power pole on Blue Spur Road, outside of Hokitika at approximately 3.30pm today. Initial reports are that one person was taken to hospital.
School bus crashes are not uncommon in New Zealand, which is one of the few developed countries not to require the fitting of seat belts on school buses.
On 18 March 5 children were taken to hospital when a school bus collided with a bitumen truck on SH1 at Fairfield near Ashburton and in February 8 students and a teacher from Gisborne High School were taken to hospital after their school minibus was involved in a collision with another vehicle on the Napier to Wairoa road.
In October of last year a bus carrying 16 children from Kaponga Primary School rolled down a bank on Mangawhero Road, east of Eltham, Taranaki. An Auckland bus carrying 35 students also rolled whilst navigating a bend on the Coateville Riverhead highway and landed on its roof in a paddock. 15 children required medical treatment.
In 2006 The Candor Trust called on the Ministry of Transport for a review of school bus safety. Representatives of the Road Safety Charity said that the last one which occurred a couple of years before “perhaps did more harm than good”. They also said it was time to drug test drivers, especially given the “Education Ministry is fine about testing pupils.”
With no less than 12 major incidents in 2006 (8.5 is average in the last decade) the Trust claimed a cloud lay over the Ministry of Education’s ability to care for Kiwi kids. In one 2 day period in 2006 25 students were traumatised during their everyday journey to or from school.
Very little up-to-date data seems to exist on school bus crash injuries but Statistics New Zealand do have some historical information on fatal and injury incidents/crashes involving children travelling to school by mode of travel for the period 1992 to 2001.
During that time there were 85 school bus-related incidents or crashes resulting in 12 fatalities, 20 serious injuries and 80 minor injuries.
Also see link: School bus safety