Call to allow signs

Oamaru Police Community Constable Bruce Dow and Ritchies Transport branch manager Richard Roberts...
Oamaru Police Community Constable Bruce Dow and Ritchies Transport branch manager Richard Roberts with warning signs they want recognised by the Ministry of Transport. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
An Oamaru policeman and a local bus operator, fed up with motorists endangering children, are calling on the Ministry of Transport to revisit its decision to ban previously unapproved flashing speed warning signs on the town's school buses.

About 20 flashing warning signs, which displayed the 20kmh speed limit for passing parked school buses, were given to Ritchies Transport following a community fundraising effort about five years ago, but they were then left gathering dust at the Oamaru bus depot when the ministry asked for them to be removed from buses.

Oamaru Community Constable Bruce Dow said the signs had been ''highly effective'' in the brief time they were installed on school buses, and called for the ministry to allow them to be used, or provide replacements.

''With that sign there you not only get warning, because of the flashing lights, but you also get the speed limit.

''It's a purely road safety measure. You only need to see what's happening on the ground to see the danger.

''We shouldn't have to have some kid killed before we do something about this.''

Senior Constable Dow said the police could not follow every single bus, and estimated that about 95% of motorists in Oamaru did not slow down for school buses. He said that was a ''particular concern'' on rural roads where vehicles were travelling at 100kmh.

Ritchies Oamaru branch manager Richard Roberts said he was concerned that bus drivers now complained ''every day'' about motorists not slowing down when children were getting off school buses.

''I was on the main road the other night and about one car in 20 actually slowed down, and that was not to 20kmh, the others just plunged on.

''And it's not only cars - it's trucks as well.''

The ministry had demanded the signs be removed because they were not a ministry design, he said.

Ministry spokesman Brenden Crocker said at present only three signs had been approved for use on school buses. A flashing sign had been approved but it did not contain a speed limit.

He said in order for the signs to be recognised, they would have to go through a trial process under the auspices of the New Zealand Transport Agency, in order to provide ''sufficient evidence'' of their value.

The Ashburton District Council had this month completed a 12-month trial of similar signs but no results had yet been passed on to the ministry, he said.

- andrew.aston@odt.co.nz

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