The Scottish Parliament has recently passed a new Bill which will mean it will be compulsory for all school buses to be fitted with seatbelts. The Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill was supported by all MSP and was unanimously passed last week. The new law will come into effect from next year when all vehicles provided by local authorities used to transport children of primary school age will require to be fitted with a seatbelt. This will be extended further in 2021 to include vehicles being used to transport children of secondary school age.
Currently, a local authority has discretion whether or not they chose to use vehicles fitted with seatbelts. Only half of the local authorities in Scotland insist that they do. The change will ensure all buses will be required to be fitted with seatbelts and this discretion will be lost. The change is a welcomed one which will, hopefully, improve the safety of school buses.
It must be considered whether the requirement to have seatbelts goes far enough. The new law will make the presence of seatbelts a requirement but it does not force the local authority to ensure children are wearing the seatbelts provided. The power to force children to wear seatbelts is reserved to Westminster which means the Scottish Parliament is prevented from making it a legal requirement. MSP have suggested local authorities adopt a ‘common sense’ approach to making children wear the seatbelts provided on school buses.
Thompsons Solicitors are proud supporters of a campaign being led by parents of children involved in the Cumbernauld bus crash which happened in February 2017. The bus involved in this accident was fitted with seatbelts however the children were not wearing them when the bus veered off the road resulting in a number of children being injured. Parents from this campaign group are calling upon local authorities to make it a requirement for children travelling on their vehicles to be made to wear seatbelts. They are also calling for better education for children regarding the need to wear seatbelts when travelling on a school bus. When asked about the issue, North Lanarkshire Council have advised that the responsibility for wearing the seatbelt rests with the individual and that they are in compliant with current laws.
While the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate to make the use of seatbelts compulsory, this does not prevent local authorities from implementing measures to ensure children in their care are being told they require to wear seatbelts and implementing repercussions of they fail to do so. The requirement to provide seatbelts is only the first step in improving the safety on children on school buses and Thompsons shall continue to work with campaign groups in their efforts to improve matters.
Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Accident Lawyer