Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
As a kid in the 80’s I remember seeing a newspaper article about a girl that was struck by a car after exiting a school bus. There was a picture of the girl on the ground being attended to by emergency personnel. It was a disturbing image and I was about her age. After that, it seemed that school buses started to have stop signs and flashing lights, and huge fines were imposed for passing a school bus when it stopped to let children on or off. Whether these two events are directly related or not, it is true that laws tend to change when something horrible happens and people are hurt or killed.
In April of this year, tragedy struck Saskatchewan as the Humboldt Bronco’s Junior hockey team bus was in a collision with a transport truck, killing 16 people on board and seriously injuring 13 others. Those killed and injured were teenagers, coaches, and trainers. Could any good come of this senseless loss of life and talent? Maybe, as those involved are asking people to #buckleupforthebroncos by encouraging the use of seat belts on tour buses if these are present.
Transport Canada is already responding and by 2020, all newly built transport buses will be required to have seatbelts.
So, what are the current laws in Canada for this? Well, seatbelt use falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial and territorial governments and in most provinces the law states that seatbelts must be worn if they are provided, but of course, most motor coaches are not required to be equipped with belts, so they are not always available to be worn. That will change in 2020.
Working in the field of auto insurance where my clients are people injured in car accidents, I can state clearly that seatbelts save lives. Bus accidents are rare but are catastrophic when they happen. These new laws could save many lives and hopefully will reduce the significance or impact of bus-accident-related injuries.
But all of this got me thinking…my daughter is a varsity athlete for a prominent University. I asked her if the coach bus that transports them to games and tournaments has belts. Her answer was “no, they do not”. I suspect this means that most University, College or Sports teams buses don’t as well, so change is necessary and if these buses can’t be retrofitted to include belts, they need to be replaced. I too am in the sports arena as the assistant coach of a sports team and our club also travels by coach bus. I have asked our travel coordinators to make sure our tour operators provide buses with belts, and if they don’t, to find another vendor. Hopefully, that can help promote change — one team at a time.
We all need to buckle-up and if belts exist, use them. Even if you don’t feel the need to wear a belt, in the event of an impact if you are unsecured you would be tossed around the inside of the vehicle, threatening the security of others. Secure yourself, secure your belongings, and secure your passengers. There is no logical reason not to.