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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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WHITEFORD WELCOMES POSITIVE ACTION ON SCHOOL BUS SAFETY

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

STEVENSON ANNOUNCES NEW SAFETY MEASURES FOR SCHOOLCHILDREN

Innovative new technology which aims to improve the safety of children boarding school buses is to be trialled across the North-east.

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson who is also the Scottish Transport Minister announced the measures during a meeting with the Scottish Parliament's Petitions Committee, which met in Fraserburgh Academy this week.

Following a meeting with bereaved parents, Mr Stevenson has been keen to work jointly with councils to look at what further measures can be taken to improve school bus safety. The local MSP then arranged to meet with Aberdeenshire Council officials, local safety campaigner Ron Beaty and bereaved parents at Aberdeenshire Council's headquarters where various ideas were discussed.

SNP Westminster candidate Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the positive progress from the Scottish Government on this important issue and expressed disappointment that the UK Transport Minister Geoff Hoon had not shown the same level of support.

The "SeeMe Bus Stop" technology, which warns drivers to exercise extreme caution when school buses are in operation, has already proven a success in Sweden.

The six month trial is part of a range of measures councils and the Scottish Government is looking at within their devolved competencies as they seek to improve school bus safety.

Other measures include:

  • Options to increase the visibility of the school bus sign
  • Reaffirming the appropriate use of the school bus sign
  • Clear requirement within current bus contracts for the use of hazard warning lights when picking up and dropping off pupils
  • Requesting that all operators also use dipped headlights when picking up and dropping off pupils
  • Education resource and publicity campaign for schoolchildren and drivers urging extreme caution when approaching school buses (entitled "1 second, 1 life")

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"The families who have lost children as a result of road accidents have faced unimaginable tragedy.

"The Scottish Government doesn't currently have powers over road safety legislation, but I am determined that we make full use of our devolved responsibilities to ensure action is taken in Scotland.

"This is very much a work in progress, but the Scottish Government is considering a wide range of measures to increase the safety of our children, through better education of children and drivers, through to greater visibility.

"We are looking at measures to increase the visibility of school children, new education resources, and advanced warning systems which urge drivers to exercise extreme caution.

"The SeeMe technology has proven successful in Sweden and looks promising, but we also want to look at what other technology is available elsewhere in the market. This trial will allow the Scottish Government to properly assess its impact.

"These measures being outlined today have the potential to improve child safety and as we move forward we want to identify further action which can be taken over the short, medium and long term to make school bus services safer."

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford added:

"This is very good news indeed and I very much welcome the fact that these safety measures will be implemented in the North-east first as part of their evaluation. It is just a pity UK Transport Minister Geoff Hoon has not shown as much engagement with the issue as Stewart Stevenson and the Scottish Government has done.

"It is also a testament to the hard work of local campaigner Ron Beaty and the effort he has put in over a prolonged period on this issue.

"We now have to see how these safety measures being piloted locally work out but improving safety on school buses will be a continuous campaign as new generations of schoolchildren – and drivers - will require constant reminders."

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