Credit to Author: Cheryl Chan| Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2019 03:20:35 +0000
An Agassiz school bus driver is one step closer in his campaign to get kids to buckle up in school buses.
The petition, launched more than a year ago, was taken up by Liberal child-care critic Laurie Throness, who is also MLA for Chilliwack—Kent, Lillico’s riding.
On Monday, Throness introduced a private member’s bill in the legislature amending the Motor Vehicle Act to make seat belts mandatory on school buses purchased in B.C. after September 2021, to give school boards and manufacturers time to prepare. The bill passed first reading.
“It’s long overdue,” said Lillico, who worked as a transit driver for 12 years before he started driving school buses two years ago.
He said he’s had multiple instances of kids coming up to him while the bus was going 100 km/h down the highway. He also recounted an incident of a young girl jumping from seat to seat as he manoeuvred the bus across a narrow bridge.
Not having seat belts on school buses is “silly,” he said, not to mention dangerous. “It’s a safety issue. We are gambling with the most precious cargo out there.”
Lillico would like to see all school buses equipped with seat belts, but acknowledged that retrofitting current vehicles at a cost of $15,000 may be too expensive for school boards to take on. In comparison, putting seat belts in buses as they are built costs $5,000.
According to Transport Canada, there has been 6,700 injuries and 19 deaths involving school buses between 1999 and 2016 in Canada.
In B.C., two Khalsa Centre students were injured in January in a school bus crash near Mission.
Transport Canada has developed standards for installation of seat belts, but did not make them mandatory. In January, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau set up a group to look at putting seat belts on school buses.
When asked about liability concerns, Lillico said such issues have been worked out in the U.S. In California, for example, school bus drivers are responsible for walking down the aisle before departing to ensure everyone is belted in. “It’s not a horrendous burden on the driver,” he said.
Throness said B.C. kids are used to wearing seat belts and will wear them voluntarily. He also noted that hundreds of thousands of B.C. students ride school buses every day, sometimes in poor weather conditions. “Let’s be first, let’s get it done in B.C.,” he said.
B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the provincial government is participating in the Transport Canada task force and will wait until recommendations are released in January before making a decision.
Meanwhile, a change to the Motor Vehicle Act now means taxi drivers in B.C., who were exempted from using seat belts when driving under 60 km/h, are now required to buckle up, like everyone else.
— With files from Rob Shaw
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