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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 742

Mrs GASH (10:48 AM) —Ten years on and the fight to have seatbelts on buses continues. Ten years ago a school bus accident took the life of a 15-year-old local boy and a group of parents formed the Belt Up for Safety Action Group. Glenda Staniford was a major force in persuading the former Howard government to allocate $40 million to allow bus companies to fit seatbelts on school buses. But that is not the problem. The problem lies with getting the New South Wales state government to change the existing law and make it mandatory to fit seatbelts in school buses, especially on country rural roads. Coaches have compulsory seat belts. Cars have compulsory seat belts. Why are school children treated differently and their lives worth less?

I would like to read an editorial from one of our journalists at the local paper, the Milton Ulladulla Times. It is by Katrina Condie and it says it all:

EVERYDAY I strap my two children into their five-point safety harnesses before we drive out the driveway and into the traffic.

Next week, I’ll be placing my tiny five-year-old daughter on a bus with no seatbelts, that travels along a winding road, reaching speeds of up to 80 and 100 kilometres per hour.

It makes me feel physically sick in the stomach to think about what could happen to her—and the other children—if that bus rolls or crashes head-on into another vehicle at high speed.

Little people, school bags, books, lunchboxes thrown upside down, through windows and on top of each other.

It would be horrific. It would be devastating.

It would shatter our community.

And, it would be totally unnecessary.

This sort of catastrophe is preventable simply by the introduction of a law that states rural school buses must have seat belts.

Other states have done it. Why can’t NSW?

Our kids are brought up knowing the importance of belting up in the car. Suddenly they are put on a bus and are taught it’s OK to break that rule. Parents lose control. Governments are in control.

Governments have a duty of care to look after our kids. They aren’t doing that.

A team of dedicated and determined mothers, many of whom have children who have finished school and are now adults themselves, have spent 10 years fighting. Now it’s time for a new generation to join the fight.

With my eldest daughter starting kinder this year, there’s a lot of challenges to deal with. But most important is her safety when she is out of my care. The Times has supported the BUS Action campaign for a decade and we will continue to do so.

But now, it’s personal!

As I put my little girl on the bus next week, and every day after that, I’ll be waving her off with a tear in my eye and hoping and praying that she makes it home safely.

Come on, state candidates - stand up, take action and keep our kids safe.

It is your responsibility.

And it is your opportunity to show every parent and child in this state that you do care.