School bus safety improvements and seatbelts
School bus services in Victoria have an excellent safety record and buses remain the safest form of travel for children to and from school.
Earlier investigations have identified that students were at most risk on their commute when getting on and off buses, and improvements have already been made in key areas to address this.
PTV have successfully installed safety fences and student marshalling areas around school bus pick up and drop off points, made improvements to visibility, widened road shoulders so buses can stop clear of other traffic, and delivered an education campaign – Stay Safe Around the Bus Stop.
In the eight months to February 2014, Public Transport Victoria (PTV) completed safety works at six sites and five more safety upgrades are underway, which included improving pick-up and drop-off areas and widening road shoulders.
All of these improvements have assisted in the prevention of incidents near school buses.
PTV is now working towards installing seatbelts on all dedicated free school buses as part of the next step in further improving the safety of students when travelling to school.
Since July 2013, all new dedicated free rural and regional school buses are being fitted with seatbelts.
To install seatbelts on school buses as quickly and efficiently as possible, PTV is replacing at least 90 dedicated free school buses each year and retro-fitting seatbelts to an additional 10 buses per year in the school bus fleet.
This program will lift installation rates from the current 43 per cent to 70 per cent over five years, greatly improving the safety of school buses on the road.
Since July 2013 there have been 641 replacement buses approved, and of those 542 have been delivered and are fitted with seatbelts, with another 99 confirmed ordered with seatbelts.
There are now 1016 of 1,371 (as at December 2019) dedicated free regional school buses across Victoria with seatbelts installed.
Responsibilities for students wearing seatbelts
Once seatbelts are fitted on a school bus all students must wear their seatbelt.
It is not proposed to alter existing legislation and policies, so there are limited changes to responsibilities regarding the use of seatbelts. The responsibilities that apply to dedicated free regional school buses with seatbelts installed will continue to apply and consistent with other local jurisdictions, responsibilities will continue to reside predominantly at a local level. An education and information programme will also be used to highlight the safety aspects and good practice of children using seat belts whenever they are available.
Bus drivers will continue to be exempt from monitoring or enforcing passengers to wear seatbelts.
Consistent with existing legislation and current practice in Victoria, and consistent with those implemented in other State jurisdictions, the decisions regarding the application of booster seats will continue to be made at the local level.
Parents and carers, in consultation with Principals and bus operators, will continue to be responsible for making decisions regarding the suitability of the seatbelts fitted on the vehicle given the individual child’s height, weight and practicalities around the provision, installation and operation of booster seats.