In a bid to get drivers to slow down, thirty school buses in mid-Canterbury have been fitted with illuminated flashing 20km/h signs – the legal speed limit when passing a stationary school bus.
The active signs were launched in Ashburton this week as part of a national trial that aims to get motorists to slow down when passing a school bus that’s stopped to let children on or off. Click here for pictures and videos.
Our national president, Liz Evans, says 23 school children have been killed in New Zealand during the last 25 years when crossing the road to or from school buses, and another 47 have been seriously injured.
“A perception survey our members helped to carry out in Ashburton in July found that 35 per cent of drivers did not even know that 20km/h was the legal speed limit, and very few slow right down. It would be much the same around the country.”
Data collected during the trial has shown that most motorists are speeding past school buses, with bus drivers reporting less than one in 20 drivers slowing down past a school bus.
The trial is being run by Transport Engineering Research New Zealand (TERNZ Ltd) with funding from the Road Safety Trust (NZ Transport Agency), and supported by the local police, Ashburton District Council and Rural Women New Zealand.
The Either way it’s 20k awareness campaign has been running in Ashburton for the last two months.
This week illuminated 20km/h signs with flashing beacons have been fitted to the buses operated by Ashburton bus company, Pearsons Coachlines. The company has the contract for 27 school bus runs from the Rangitata to Rakaia, bringing children to schools within Ashburton and outlying rural areas.
Pearsons Coachlines Depot Manager, Mark Cook, says while driving school buses he has seen a lot of close calls, “a lot of which never get reported”. He’s also witnessed motorists passing stationary school buses on long, straight roads at speeds in excess of 100km/h.
“We were very motivated when the opportunity arose to join with Rural Women New Zealand, with a vision to improve the safety of our children around school buses.
“The results so far have been extremely positive and now combined with the new 20km/h signs on the buses, I am sure that the current trial will prove to be successful.”
The signs will operate on Pearsons’ buses until at least June 2014. Bus drivers have already seen a change in driver behaviour, with a notable decrease in the speed at which motorists pass stationary school buses when the signs are operational.
Motorists will have a couple of weeks grace before the police begin to actively enforce the 20km/h speed limit past stationary school buses, says Sergeant Stephen Burgerhout of the Police’s Mid/South Canterbury Highway Patrol.
“As there has been a comprehensive educational campaign, I will be highly disappointed to see many offences.”
Rural Women New Zealand strongly hopes that at the end of the trial the NZ Transport Agency will approve the active 20K signs so that they can legally be installed on school buses around the country.