Seatbelts would have prevented many injuries in highway bus crash

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

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson was commenting after a deadly crash on Saturday night involving a tourist bus and two cars on SH1 near Warkworth.

"There have been several fatal crashes involving buses on New Zealand's rural roads in recent years. Yet many buses driven on these roads lack seatbelts. Even where seatbelts are fitted, there’s no requirement for the occupants to wear them. In the latest accident, it appears that seatbelts were fitted to the bus but not worn by the passengers. As a result, a number of tour bus passengers were needlessly injured.”

“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 to existing buses.”

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 to 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 US 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.”