K. Yeung and Ivy Ip (South China Morning Post, September 27 and 30), called for school vans to be fitted with seat belts.
The administration attaches great importance to exploring measures to enhance safety on school transport services, given that the passengers are mostly young children who are not ready to take care of themselves, particularly when there is an emergency. We consulted the Legislative Council Panel on Transport earlier this year on possible safety measures, including the introduction of passenger seat belts.
It was noted that there have been debates overseas on the effectiveness of seat belts on school vehicles and the findings have been inconclusive. While some say the seat belts would protect children in accidents, other people argue that such belts would, in fact, prevent rapid egress if there was, for example, a fire, as the children might be unable to unfasten their seat belts themselves. Since the effectiveness versus the risks of children wearing such belts is still being debated, it was concluded there was no strong justification to require compulsory fitting and wearing of seat belts on these vehicles at this stage.
In the US and Canada, 'compartmentalisation' has been adopted rather than seat belts on school buses. Compartmentalisation means the provision of strong, well-padded and energy-absorbing seats to protect children in the event of a crash. Because of its benefits, it has been decided that all new school transport vehicles should be provided with proper and well-constructed seats according to specifications to be decided by the Transport Department. We aim to introduce the relevant legislation next year.
Education and publicity also play an important role in improving safety.
The government launched a series of publicity campaigns in September on safety on school transport, targeted at schoolchildren. Posters, leaflets and stickers have been widely distributed to schools and vehicle operators. A CD-ROM for education purposes is also in production.
for Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works