August and September is the time when our children return to school. When parents send their kids off to school, they should not have to worry about the safety of travelling on a school bus. Unfortunately recent incidents have demonstrated that safety on school buses is a growing concern.
In recent months, two school buses have been involved in accidents which have resulted in a number of children sustaining injures and requiring hospital treatment.
In February 2017, 22 children were taken to hospital after their school bus flipped over an embankment near to Our Lady’s High School in Cumbernauld. Emergency services were required to attend the scene and the fire brigade had to deal with an engine fire. A second incident occurred in August 2017 in Dumbarton when 21 children required to be taken to hospital after their school bus struck another vehicle before ending up in a ditch.
Thompsons Solicitors act on behalf of a number of the children who were injured in the Cumbernauld incident and are now working closely alongside parents who have formed a campaign group in a bid to improve safety on school buses. Since the accident in Cumbernauld, parents have discovered that the Council are using buses which have in excess of 800,000 miles on the clock and are in a poor condition. The vehicles used for the school run are substandard compared to those used for tourists or other travellers.
It has also been discovered that children travelling on school buses may not be wearing seatbelts. It is not currently compulsory for a school bus to be fitted with seatbelts. Many Councils are said to insist on the buses being fitted with seatbelts but this is a matter of good practice rather than law. In order to rectify this, a Bill has been introduced, and approved, by the Scottish Parliament.
The Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill, in its current terms, is seeking to make it a requirement that local authorities ensure that motor vehicles used for school transport is fitted with seatbelts on every passenger seat.
Campaign groups formed by parents and the introduction of Bill which highlight safety issues go some way to improving safety requirements but local authorities need to do more to protect the safety of children in their care. Over the coming weeks Thompsons will continue to work with the Cumbernauld parents in particular in using our contacts with the Scottish media to help them gain more publicity for their campaign.
Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Glasgow Lawyer