Police get behind campaign
Matamata-piako police are right on board with a campaign to have police enforce the 20kmh speed limit past school buses.
Rural Women New Zealand is encouraging police to follow school buses to discourage drivers speeding past stationary buses.
Sergeant Neil Mansill of the Matamata-piako Strategic Traffic Unit said they had been doing this for two years.
‘‘We do active enforcement, although we can’t be everywhere at the same time. We want everyone to slow down past the schools and the buses, because we will take enforcement action,’’ Mr Mansill said.
‘‘The Matamata-piako police know what it’s like to attend a crash involving a child from a school bus and we don’t want that to ever happen again because it’s not good on anyone.’’
Twelve-year-old Matamata Intermediate student Jordan Eastgate was killed after getting off a school bus in 2009.
His parents, Grant Eastgate and Mandie Roband, have been campaigning for school bus safety ever since and presented a 5550-signature petition to the Government in September last year.
One feature they would like to have introduced is a flashing 20kmh sign mounted in the back window of all school buses.
Rural Women NZ had given the suggestion their full backing, said Shirley Read, national councillor for the Waikato.
‘‘Rural Women NZ has been trying to champion it as an issue that does impact on local families,’’ she said. ‘‘People are unaware of the law and if it’s the difference between a child being killed or not and avoiding the devastation not only for the family but also the person who hit the child, it’s well worth the investment of time and energy.’’
In 23 years, 23 children have been killed crossing the road to or from a school bus, 47 have been seriously injured and a further 92 have received minor injuries.
Eighty-five per cent of fatalities occur on rural roads.
Hinuera School principal Dean Mcdonnell said he always slowed down when passing a school bus and was amazed at how often he was nearly rear-ended by other drivers. ‘‘As soon as I start slowing down for a bus, I watch my rear-vision mirror like a hawk because a lot of people just don’t see it. And 20kmh is really slow – you’ve just got to make that conscious effort,’’ Mr Mcdonnell said.
He said he normally pumped his brakes when slowing down, to flash his brake lights and warn vehicles behind him.
‘‘I probably do exactly what the signs will be doing and my firsthand experience is that something flashing does work.
‘‘If you make the choice to do the right thing and slow down, you need to be aware of other people on the road because not everyone else will be.
‘‘The one thing all schools want to know is that their kids are as safe as they possibly can be.’’
Pay attention: A school bus during a trial by TERNZ of active 20kmh flashing signs in Matamata.