THE mother of Nullawarre bus crash victim Emily Blake has broken her silence about the accident that severely injured her daughter, making an impassioned plea for tighter seatbelt rules for buses.
Telling of the family’s “unimaginable horror’’ after the November 2009 accident, Sue Blake wants the state government to conduct an urgent review.
She said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that buses built before 1995, like the one Emily was travelling on, were exempt from Australian Design Rules (ADR) standards on road safety. She blames the Victorian government for not providing her daughter, then aged 10, with protective safety standards, and wants unsafe vehicles built before 1995 taken off the road.
She said the bus Emily was on was designed to travel at no more than 70km/h and was built at a time when heavy vehicles in Australia were not permitted to travel over 80km/h.
“In 2012, times have changed, speed limits have increased to 100km/h,” she said.
“Yet our rural kids are travelling on buses with outdated safety features designed for more than 30 years ago.”
Yesterday, Mrs Blake told The Standard she now felt the time was right to make sure no other family experienced what her family had.
“It’s always been there in the back of my mind, it’s there every day,” she said.
Mrs Blake said children on school buses in rural areas faced some of the worst traffic on highly dangerous roads.
She said when the time came to put Emily back on a school bus, it was a decision she found heartbreaking.
Mrs Blake said her daughter could not express that she wanted to go back on, but it was the normal thing for an 11-year-old to do and she wanted to be with her friends on the bus. Emily was accompanied by her carer for the 10-minute journey.“It was horrific to me. I felt I had kept her safe since the accident and now I was putting her in harm’s way,” Mrs Blake said.
Mrs Blake, together with long-time bus safety campaigner Leon Hain, plans to write to state government ministers and bus companies to lobby for change. They want it to be mandatory for school buses to have seatbelts.
Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder said bus travel was the safest form of road passenger transport available.
“Victoria’s school buses have an excellent safety record,” he said. “It’s a lot safer for students to travel by train or bus than by car.
“An Australian Transport Council report found not just that the compulsory introduction of seatbelts on buses would be very expensive, but would not result in any marked reduction in the national road toll.
“Occasional school bus safety issues are, usually, being hit by other vehicles after leaving the bus. That’s why there are flashing warning lights on school buses.
“Through Public Transport Victoria, the Coalition government funds the replacement of about 100 school buses each year. Victoria does not require the provision of seatbelts on school buses.
“However, the Coalition government allows bus operators to fit seatbelts in their buses, provided that the buses remain able to safely and legally carry their nominated passenger loads.”
To support Mrs Blake’s campaign, visit the Belt Up For Safety Facebook page, Susan Blake’s Facebook page or email Sue at email@example.com