All highway buses need seatbelts

All passenger buses that drive at more than 50km/h should be required to have seatbelts, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, describes much of the New Zealand bus fleet as “a disgrace”.

"Many bus operators try to get by with minimal maintenance. Their buses may scrape through a COF safety inspection, but that doesn’t mean these vehicles are capable of dealing with emergencies. Many of these buses would not be allowed on the road in other countries.”

“Compared to cars, buses are actually a very safe way of travelling.  At low speeds, such as around town, it’s not practical to require occupants to wear seatbelts. However, buses that travel our highways need to protect their occupants in the event of a collision.”

“New Zealand’s roads are particularly dangerous for buses, because they’re often narrow and winding; a perfect setup for a rollover accident.”

“Provided it’s done properly, there’s no reason that older buses can’t be retrofitted with seatbelts. This was done with cars in the 1990s.”

“The government should also ban the import of buses without seatbelts. However, again, there’s no reason seatbelts can’t be retrofitted.”

Matthew-Wilson, whose seatbelt research was awarded by the Australian Police Journal, says it’s important that the correct types of seatbelts are fitted.

Seatbelts that only go across your lap are highly dangerous; they can practically cut you in half in a serious collision.”

“All seatbelts need to have a proper shoulder harness as well. Lap-only seatbelts are almost as dangerous as not wearing seatbelts at all.”

Matthew-Wilson also wants the government ban the import of buses without Electronic Stability Control. Electronic Stability Control (ESC/ESP) helps prevent a vehicle losing control in emergencies. ESC is already compulsory on cars, but is still optional on imported buses.

However, a 2012 study by the American government, concluded that: “[If installed on heavy vehicles], we believe that ESC systems could prevent 40–56% of rollover crashes and 14% of loss-of-control crashes.”