Rural Women New Zealand applauds a new campaign by Southern District police to enforce the 20kmh speed limit past a school bus that has stopped to let children on or off, and is calling for the campaign to be rolled out nationally.
As part of its ‘Back to Schools’ programme, Southern District police have broadened their focus beyond the school zone, and are targeting motorists who speed past school buses.
“For the first two weeks of each term, Southern District police will follow school buses along their routes to enforce the 20km/h speed limit when passing a school bus in either direction,” says RWNZ national president, Liz Evans.
“Rural Women New Zealand is delighted with this initiative, which is an important part of raising driver awareness of this Road Code rule, which many motorists are unaware of, and which is almost universally ignored.
“Bus drivers tell us that motorists are regularly passing school buses at 80km/h above the speed limit. This leaves children very vulnerable, especially when they are being dropped off in rural areas with no footpaths. A moment’s inattention, or a child’s inability to judge speeds, can mean death or serious injury.”
The shocking statistics speak for themselves: In the 23 years since 1987, 23 children have been killed when crossing the road to or from school buses. A further 47 have been seriously injured and 92 have received minor injuries. By comparison, six children were killed while actually on a school bus.
Last year 36 children were injured when a logging truck in the Bay of Plenty rear-ended a school bus that had stopped to let children off.
Eight-five percent of the accidents happen in the afternoon on the way home from school and, while 62 percent of the crashes are in 50km/hr zones, 85 percent of fatalities are on high speed roads, many of which are in rural areas.
Rural Women New Zealand has written to Police Roading National Manager Superintendent Paula Rose, asking her to issue a national directive for all police districts to follow the Southern District’s lead and follow school buses for the first two weeks of every school term to enforce the 20km/h rule.
“A school bus safety forum we held in Wellington last November highlighted that there is no one solution to the problem of reducing accidents involving children using school buses.
“However, enforcement of the speed limit by police, along with active signage on buses and education of drivers and children were all identified as vital components.”