Seatbelt subsidy use queried

TASBUS general manager Geoff Lewis believes a $25,000 federal government subsidy for school bus operators to install seatbelts would be better spent on bus safety education.

The federal government announced last week that its new round of subsidies, which it has granted through the Seatbelts on Regional School Buses program since 2007, were open.

However, Mr Lewis said for Tasmanian operators to install seatbelts, it cost much more than $25,000, as most buses were old and seats would have to be ripped out and new ones installed, as those built 15 years ago weren't designed to have them.

He said he had not heard of many people taking up the subsidy and didn't believe many would.

"Instead of seatbelts, the money should be spent to increase the awareness about bus safety," Mr Lewis said.

He said most accidents happened around the bus, with children running out and cars not going slow enough.

"There's no fatalities on the bus, it's always around them, so why not spend money educating that," he said.

WestBus co-owner Jan Bingley said about 10 per cent of her company's buses had seatbelts and while they were the most requested kind of bus, they did not fit as many children.

Three primary school aged children are allowed to sit on one seat on buses without seatbelts, but only two can fit on those with.

Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations president Jenny Eddington said all new school buses were being constructed with seatbelts, but not all had to have them.

"Our position is where possible the buses be fitted with them but it can be hard," Ms Eddington said.

•Eligible operators have until June 11 to apply for the $25,000 seatbelt subsidy and can find more information at www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/seatbelts/.

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