No proof belt-up policy would help children
I refer to the letter from Nicola Pell headlined 'All parents should buy portable seat belts' (South China Morning Post, October 2).
The Government is taking a step-by-step approach in pursuing seat-belt requirements in vehicles. Priority is given to those vehicle categories with larger numbers of casualties. Following the extension of rear seat-belt legislation to private cars and taxis, we are now planning to require passenger seat belts on new public light buses.
The benefits of providing seat belts on school buses have not been proved and different overseas countries adopt different practices. For example, in the US and Canada, there has been extensive debate over the pros and cons of mandating seat belts on large school buses. The federal laws of these countries do not require the installation of such seat belts. Only five US states and one city in Canada have made such belts mandatory. In both countries they prefer to have strong, well-padded and energy-absorbing seats to 'compartmentalise' and protect schoolchildren if there is a crash.
Although there is no provision under current laws to restrict the use of portable seat belts on school transport, it should be noted that these belts are not intended as a safety belt. They are designed to give postural support for those with special needs such as the hyperactive and those with disabilities. The effectiveness of these belts in head-on, rear-impact and side-impact collisions, has not been proved.
The Government is very concerned about the safety of children on school transport vehicles and we are carrying out a study on measures to enhance their safety. We will investigate the effectiveness of rear seat belts and the provision of escorts on those school vehicles not presently requiring them. Such measures would have significant cost implications and we have conducted a questionnaire to solicit views from parents and the transport trade. We hope to make our recommendations on the way forward in the near future.
H. L. CHENG
for Commissioner for Transport