Revised timetable for seatbelts in school buses
The timetable for completing the fitting of seatbelts in Western Australia's school bus services fleet has been extended from 2010 to 2015.
Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that even with the extension, WA would still lead the nation in having seatbelts installed in its school bus fleet.
"The only other State to have mandatory installation of seatbelts in all school buses is South Australia and theirs will not be completed for 30 years," Ms MacTiernan said.
"Currently in WA, 64 orange school buses are fitted with seatbelts and that number will increase to 86 by the end of the year.
"Because most buses in Australia do not require seatbelts under Australian Design Rule (ADR) standards, the design and technical issues associated with retrofitting seatbelts have turned out to be much more challenging than we had anticipated.
"Our bus retirement and replacement program - after 10 years for small buses and 15 years for large buses - will see the remainder of the 770-plus fleet fitted with seatbelts by December 2015."
The Minister said design and technical problems had proved an impassable barrier to the Government's 2005 target of completing the project in 2010.
"The Australian Design Rule, which governs occupant protection in buses, does not mandate for belts in most buses with typical bus bench seats - which covers most buses providing school services in WA," she said.
"This meant the WA State Government was imposing a standard of safety in its school bus services that was much higher than the norm, and the bus manufacturing industry had not incorporated these heightened safety requirements.
"In some cases, retrofitting would have meant completely dismantling and rebuilding buses for them to be able to comply with the current standard.
"In addition, the National Code of Practice Retrofitting Passenger Restraints to Buses is still a draft document and has yet to be approved by the National Transport Commission.
"As a result, the requirements for testing retrofitted seatbelts and ensuring vehicles can be licensed are still being developed.
"A total of 43 larger buses, due to be replaced between 2016 and 2020, are capable of being retrofitted and the seatbelt retrofit program will continue on these vehicles.
"The vehicles were built after 2001 and 18 have been assessed as being ADR 68-compliant and will therefore require minimal modification.
"A contract to retrofit 43 buses will be advertised this week and this task should be completed by the end of 2007.
"All the other vehicles in the contracted school bus fleet will achieve seatbelt compliance by December 2015, through the retirement and replacement process.
"As well as setting a more realistic implementation schedule, the Government also recognised that the most significant risk to students was not when they were on a bus, but as pedestrians either about to board it or crossing a road after alighting from it in the afternoon.
"To that end, we have allocated money for a targeted safety education campaign, to focus on children who use our school buses.
"The details of this program are still being finalised by the PTA in consultation with the Office of Road Safety."