This is so obvious it just can’t be right…

TWENTY Major – who cleared up at the Irish Blog awards recently, despite the ingrate’s non-appearance – thinks “TV3 news is f~$%&£* shit” after its tabloid coverage of the bus crash in Offaly yesterday in which a 15 year old boy was killed and at least 30 others injured, raising the issue of seatbelts again. But isn’t part of the answer to reducing causalties in this emotive and expensive issue not clearly staring us in the face…?In Northern Ireland, school buses don’t have seatbelts, as far as I’m aware. Sammy Wilson believes the cost is too high and would mean that “youngsters who currently get a bus to school will not get one”.

Since it’s an emotive issue, Sammy asks us to weigh up the (possibly exaggerated, but probably high) cost against the probabilty of your kid being hurt on a school bus (seriously low). It’s a fair point.

So if we’re looking for a relatively cheap, risk-reducing means to reduce child bus casualties, why don’t coachbuilders just make school buses with the seats facing backwards? We do it with baby seats in cars because we know it cushions any impact significantly.

What am I missing?

  • foreign correspondent

    Just on Twentymajor´s site, he slags off TV3 news, (justifiably, as it´s crap) but a previous blog of his own about car crashes because of the M50 toll is seriously unfunny. Did he get all his mates to vote him best blog or something?

  • George

    Gonzo,
    I have said here before that this specific seatbelt issue is a perfect example of what is wrong in Northern Ireland politics.

    Following the Meath disaster, Edwin Poots of the DUP came out with all the right phrases about how this could happen in Northern Ireland etc. and how something had to be done. I was impressed at the time.

    I haven’t heard a word from the man since. The subsequent accident in Offaly shows this problem hasn’t gone away and no doubt Mr. Poots will pop up again if when some northern road is drenched in children’s blood.

    Following the deaths of the five Meath schoolchildren last year, the Irish government pledged to phase in seatbelts on all school buses by the end of this year at a cost of 100 million euros. This looks like being done on time.

    In Northern Ireland, where children also travel on buses without seatbelts, the cost was put at 50 million sterling by a Environment Committee report in 2002.

    Too much for Sammy as you point out, even though idle Stormont alone has cost 80 million. Edwin says one thing and Sammy another.

    Your idea, I’m afraid, would merely be a sticking plaster over the running sore of powerlessness that is the Northern Irish political system.

    It is not a solution.

    You are asking that bus companies voluntarily take on an extra cost because the politicians in Northern Ireland are unwilling to take control of local issues such as schoolchildren’s safety.

    I say voluntarily because, under EU Law, there doesn’t have to be any safety modifications such as moving seats or retroactive fitting of seatbelts in buses such as the one in yesterday’s accident. It dates from 1989 so doesn’t need them.

    Do you honestly think all bus companies will voluntarily incur this cost? Why should they?

  • Young Fogey

    Well, Twenty Major is never going to appeal to the PC establishmentarian lefty bridgade on the blogosphere.

  • “Following the Meath disaster, Edwin Poots of the DUP came out with all the right phrases about how this could happen in Northern Ireland etc. and how something had to be done. I was impressed at the time. I haven’t heard a word from the man since. “

    He’ll be off desperately trying to convince people that the Maze really is a good place to build a football stadium. The guy’s a joker.

    I’ve said before, put seatbelts on buses and schoolkids will NOT wear them.

  • George

    Beano,
    how do you know? I’ve never met a child that refused to wear a seat belt when they were told to. Maybe I’m just lucky.

    Anyway, even if only 80 per cent wore them, it would still be worth it.

    The argument that children probably wouldn’t wear them is the lamest of the lame.

    P.S. Poots may be for the Maze this week but Sammy might be for Belfast next week.

  • smcgiff

    ‘why don’t coachbuilders just make school buses with the seats facing backwards?’

    I would imagine this would increase motion sickness.

    I think all new buses in the ROI will have to have seat belts when bought new.

    The problem with retrofitting, apparently, is that the seats in older buses weren’t designed to take seat belts i.e. simply fitting seat belts to existing seats may make them more hazardous – you might get a passenger flying around the place attached to a seat that wasn’t able to take the extra load of a restrained passenger in crash situations.

  • mook

    Has anyone here ever been on a bus with seatbelts? I use one every day and guess how many people use the seatbelts? That’s right NOBODY. You can fit as many seatbelts as you want, but people just don’t use them. For some reason it’s just not the done thing.

  • George

    Mook,
    that is because it isn’t compulsory (and what are you doing on school buses :)).

    I bet you wear one in a car where it is compulsory.

    If it is made compulsory for children to wear seatbelts on school buses, they will wear them.

    I assume it will become compulsory once all school buses are fitted with them.

  • mook

    You’re right George, if you’re going to bother putting seatbelts in any vehicle, you have to make it mandatory to wear them by law and have a lot of publicity telling people to do it (no doubt a TV advert with someone from the Hole in the Wall Gang!) It was the same before it was compulsory in cars, no one wore them. Sometimes people need a gentle kick up the arse to make them do what’s only sensible.

  • idunnomeself

    but the Car driver is responsible for making sure peole have seat belts on. Is the bus driver going to make sure the kids on the bus put on seat belts?

    I think Sammy Wilson is talking about Education and Library Board budgets- look how they squealed over cuts of a few million last month, are you going to ask them to spend 50million more on this?
    Also primary school kids sit 3 to a seat and kids stand up on buses, so the seatbelt rule will mean more buses.

    So the cost is significant, but the possible advantages very low, other than ‘being seen to do something’

  • Joe

    I live in Canada and this argument comes up from time to time.
    My understanding from Government and bus company sources that it isn’t simply a matter of money.
    The buses are designed to have as little room as possible between the seats so that in the event of a collision, the children do not move far and thus injuries in general are minimized.
    The downside with seatbelts is that, in the event of a major incident, involving a fire for example, many of the youger children may not be able to free themselves from the belts.
    So the consensus, backed by industry research, is that, overall, it is better not to have seatbelts.

  • George

    Joe,
    my understanding is that in Canada and the U.S. they not have specially designed school buses, which are highly visible, have specially designed seats, roll-over protection, warning lights etc.

    In Ireland, they use normal buses which on many occassions are hired from private contractors.

    Maybe a better idea than seat belts would be to have a specifically designed school bus fleet as across the Atlantic rather than seat belts.

    However, I fear that would be an even more expensive solution.

  • Joe

    George,

    that is true. We do have specially designed buses. I addition, when a school bus stops, the driver energises flashing lights at the top of the bus, front and back. All traffic must then stop; it is a serious offence to pass the bus while the lights are flashing.
    I’m not sure actually that it would be that expensive. Perhaps some school board over there could be persuaded to give it a try. That would allow a comparison of costs.

    Regards, Joe

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Again I ask, why not build new buses with the seats facing backwards?

    Even on the current buses, it would be relatively inexpensive to flip them around.

    This is not rocket science. And it would significantly decrease the chances of injury on initial impact.

    Where is the extra cost? Why wouldn’t this work?

  • missfitz

    gonzo
    I get dizzy even thinking about it. Back in the days when I was a nurse, you couldnt transport anyone backwards on a trolley or a wheelchair as they got sick.

    Also, what would the little beggars get up to with their backs to the driver? As I was a model student, i wouldnt know, but I suspect snogging, smoking and other reprehensible acts of teenage rebellion

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Oh, come on missfitz!

    Smoking is banned on all NI buses, so the driver would stop the bus to find out.

    As for “snogging” if the seats were facing forward, do you think it would make any difference to the driver!

    I just don’t think I’ve heard one good reason not to do this yet. In fact, many local buses DO have a few backwards facing seats already, and you can really feel and see the difference when the bus brakes hard – people facing forwards are flung forwards and flail out for something to hold onto.

    People facing backwards just sit there, laughing quietly at everyone else.

    PS: You’d get used to travelling backwards.