6 Sep 2011

Speeding past buses 'big problem' in Bay of Plenty

11:00 pm on 6 September 2011

A bus company at the centre of a serious crash in the Bay of Plenty says speeding past school buses is a huge problem in the area.

A logging truck rear-ended a Transbay Coach school bus on Reid Road near Ruatoki, south of Whakatane about 3.30pm on Monday, injuring about 35 pupils and the truck driver.

An eight-year-old girl remains in a critical but stable condition in Auckland's Starship Hospital. Six other children and the truck driver are in hospitals in Whakatane, Rotorua and Tauranga.

Eyewitnesses say the bus was slowing down to stop at the time the truck collided with it. Police are investigating the cause of the crash.

Transbay Coaches operations manager Stu McNabb says while traffic must slow to 20km/h when passing a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children, that does not happen very often in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

Mr McNabb says he grits his teeth every time he sees it happen and police need to enforce the law.

The 41-year-old male driver involved in the crash takes logs from forests managed by PF Olsen.

The company's chief executive, Peter Clark, says the forestry industry works hard with trucking companies to make log transport safer and drivers are not under pressure to meet delivery targets.

Whakatane District Council transportation manager Martin Taylor agrees there are many incidents of vehicles speeding past school buses in the area, but says it is probably no worse than elsewhere.

Figures show just five tickets were issued in Bay of Plenty in the past five years to people caught breaching the law. Nationally, 179 tickets were issued in the same period.

A Te Anua highway patrol officer who is spearheading a campaign in Southland to stop vehicles speeding past school buses, says the problem is much worse than the ticket numbers show.

Constable Dwight Grieve says awareness of the 20km/h limit is low and the law can be difficult to police.

The Bus and Coach Association says it understands the law can be difficult to enforce.

Former bus driver Colin Coop has been warning since 2007 that a serious crash would occur and says if police enforced the law, Monday's crash might have been avoided.

Taneatua School principal Rob Shaw says he does not want any more of his pupils hurt and enforcement of the law is needed.

Police National Headquarters did not return calls to Radio New Zealand News on Tuesday regarding speeding past school buses and enforcement of the law.