FOR most people, putting on a seatbelt is the first thing done when getting into a car.
But on Victorian school buses it is not even compulsory for seatbelts to be fitted.
An interactive timeline online details a nation-wide list of incidents involving school buses over the past 20 years.
The timeline shows dozens of incidents involving students that were injured or killed while not wearing seatbelts on school buses.
Safety campaigners and coach operators have called on the state and federal governments to make seatbelts mandatory on rural school buses.
Leon Hain, a long-time road safety advocate who is also a member of the Victorian committee of the Australasian College of Road Safety, said piling children onto school buses without seatbelts was an accident waiting to happen.
Mr Hain said with rural buses travelling at high speeds, it was “potentially homicidal” to not have children restrained.
Although there have been very few accidents in the Ballarat area in recent times, he said it would be a tragedy if it took a fatality for new rules to be introduced.
“How many children do we need killed or injured before the government stops playing politics and starts saving lives?” Mr Hain said.
“When bodies are flying around a vehicle they crash into each other. Be it at 60, 80 or 100km/h, there are going to be serious consequences.”
Ballarat’s largest school coach operator, Gold Bus, has seatbelts installed on all new buses it introduces to the fleet.
It costs about an extra $20,000 each bus to have seatbelts installed, a cost which is worn by the company.
General manager Ross Huntington said of the 22 school buses owned by Gold Bus, 14 were equipped with seatbelts.
He also called for more information from the government to educate passengers about the importance of seatbelts.
“There needs to be more education out there,” said Mr Huntington.
“Not a huge percentage of kids wear the seatbelts even when they are fitted, especially high school students.”
An independent inquiry on school bus safety in New South Wales is currently underway, with the report to be released later this year.
A spokesperson for Victorian Transport Minister Terry Mulder did not return calls from The Courier yesterday.