Family still driving bus safety fight
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.
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.