Fam­ily still driv­ing bus safety fight

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By ABBY BROWN

Six years on from los­ing her son Mandie Roband is up­set the gov­ern­ment ap­pears to have made no im­prove­ments on chil­dren’s safety around buses.

Her son Jor­don East­gate was 12 years old when he was fa­tally struck by a car go­ing faster than 20km past a school bus in May 2009.

Roband and her two other chil­dren wit­nessed the in­ci­dent. Roband was on the phone to Jor­dan’s fa­ther, Grant East­gate, at the time.

The fam­ily is con­tin­u­ing to pe­ti­tion par­lia­ment to im­prove safety around school buses and raise aware­ness about the is­sue through a Face­book page called 20k ei­ther way.

‘‘We’ve tried to get the mes­sage out but there is only so much we can do,’’ Roband said.

‘‘A lot of it is gov­ern­ment, po­lit­i­cal, red tape and lack of fund­ing.’’

Ev­ery year the fam­ily email Peter Baas from Trans­port Re­search New Zealand (TERNZ) to see how they are pro­gress­ing with get­ting lights that flash when a bus stops in­stalled on school buses.

‘‘ It’s al­ways another trial, another trial or NZTA don’t like this and want to try another way,’’ Roband said.

In Baas’ latest email to the fam­ily he said: ‘‘I feel bad about the fact that six years have passed and mea­sures are still not in place to save the life of chil­dren like Jor­dan. It is not with­out try­ing.’’

TERNZ had run a trial in the Ash­bur­ton Dis­trict last year that looked at the ef­fec­tive­ness of LED speed limit signs on school buses. There was a prob­lem with fit­ting them on the smaller buses so NZTA has asked TERNZ to eval­u­ate the ef­fec­tive­ness of smaller LED signs for those buses.

‘‘The plan is to fit 10 small buses with the scaled-down signs and to trial them for a few months while we mea­sure pass­ing speed. We are also try­ing to make the signs sim­pler so they are more af­ford­able as cost is still a bar­rier,’’ Baas said.

Roband said it was ‘‘com­mon­sense’’ to get flash­ing lights in­stalled on all school buses as coroners have been rec­om­mend­ing that since 2006.

‘‘It’s about time to look af­ter our kids,’’ she said.

She crit­i­cised the gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties.

‘‘You want to sling money away on a silly flag change.’’

She said im­prove­ments could also be made in terms of chil­dren’s be­hav­iour while wait­ing for buses and that both bus and car driv­ers need to be more care­ful with speed and pulling out, es­pe­cially around schools and bus stops.

‘‘It is chaotic out there,’’ said.

She would also like to see chil­dren not stand­ing at bus stops un­ac­com­pa­nied by a par­ent.

‘‘ It’s got to be a com­mu­nity ef­fort to keep the kids safe. The po­lice need to en­force the law

she more of­ten, there needs to be more mon­i­tor­ing around schools and drop off points. Maybe if bus driv­ers are drop­ping off kids on the other side of the road from their home and can see cars com­ing they should keep the doors shut and say, ‘ wait a minute there’s a car com­ing’.

‘‘ Or, like I said on my [Face­book] page, we saw some- thing re­ally neat on the way back from Mor­rinsville. The bus driver got out of the bus, held the child’s hand and walked him across the road. That’s the sort of bus driver you want.’’

Roband said it was ‘‘dis­heart­en­ing and fright­en­ing’’ when peo­ple ig­nored signs warn­ing to slow down to 20kmh past a sta­tionery bus.

She said it would have been what Jor­dan wanted, if his fam­ily’s work could help save even just one child.

She said some im­prove­ments had been made. Some stu­dents in Mata­mata had been pro­vided high vis­i­bil­ity gear shortly af­ter Jor­dan’s death, which she highly rec­om­mended for foggy win­ter morn­ings.

Photo: ABBY BROWN

Mandie Roband, with a photo of her late son Jor­dan East­gate and the sign she of­ten puts up in a Mata­mata petrol sta­tion’s win­dow, says the gov­ern­ment has made no im­prove­ments on chil­dren’s safety around buses.

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