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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 16:38 GMT
Safety campaign gathers pace
Dr Chris Howard
Dr Howard wants 'huge gaps' in the law filled in

The inquest into the death of a 12-year-old boy killed on board a bus as he journeyed home, has brought the issue of school bus safety to the fore.

Stuart Cunningham Jones died when the bus he was travelling in careered off the road and hit a tree near the village of Ystradowen in the Vale of Glamorgan in December 2002.

On Monday, an inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death, believing the crash was happened because of interference with the steering wheel.

Campaigners have long argued that the current rules and regulations are a mess - with every local authority interpreting the law in their own way.

Now head teachers and bus companies are calling for political action to reform the way we transport children to and from school and hit a tree.

And a campaign organised by parents of pupils at Stuart's school - Cowbridge Comprehensive in the Vale of Glamorgan - want changes to the law to ensure:

  • Children on the Ystradowen bus route to have a designated single-decker bus fitted with factory-installed seat belts of a recognised safety standard
  • Each child to have a designated seat
  • Adult supervision, other than the driver, to be present on the bus
  • The creation of a "safe route" for pedestrians and cyclists to go to school

    Dr Chris Howard is head teacher of Lewis Pengam School in Bargoed, and a member of Stuart's Campaign. He wants changes to current rules which allow three children aged 14 or under to sit on a bus seat designed for two adults.

    His daughter Bethan was a passenger on the bus travelling from Cowbridge Comprehensive through Ystradowen - where both the Cunningham-Jones family and his own live - when it left the road and crashed, killing Stuart.

    The kids think it's funny to mess about. It's very hard for a driver on his own to make them sit down, and if he does, it delays the bus getting them home.
    Newport Transport's Trevor Roberts
    "The evening of the crash was one of the worst of our lives, as you can imagine," he recalled.

    "Then I had to confront the reality of being responsible for my own school's transport the next day.

    "When I began to look into where my own personal responsibility as a head teacher lay, I realised there were huge gaps in the law."

    He said that the campaign group were told by government ministers that nothing could be done until the inquest established exactly how and why Stuart died.

    "Now that we know what happened on the bus that day, they can begin a review," said Dr Howard.

    "We would hope they would take very seriously our demands... that seatbelts are employed on all school runs and supervisors or CCTV cameras are used to provide some kind of supervision other than the driver.

    Trevor Roberts
    Trevor Roberts said bus drivers have to drive and try to control pupils

    "That would make things much better for children all across the UK."

    Currently, only three counties in Wales have supervisors on buses to and from secondary schools, and then only on selected or problem routes.

    Trevor Roberts, managing director of Newport Transport said: "What we are looking for really is some supervision, a bus marshal.

    "The kids think it's funny to mess about. It's very hard for a driver on his own to make them sit down, and if he does, it delays the bus getting them home."

    He would like to see somebody with the authority to keep children in their seats "without being challenged all the time, and sued" put in place on buses.

    However, he added: "At the end of the day, somebody has to pay for it."


  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    The BBC's Wyre Davies
    "The Welsh Assembly said they would investigate"



    SEE ALSO:
    No charges over fatal bus crash
    12 Jun 03  |  South East Wales


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