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June 20, 2013

Passenger Safety – how NOT to do it!

Looking at the article by Mel Holley in Routeone’s magazine on page 12, dated 6 June 2013. It tells of a story of a coach operator taking a trip to Alton Towers from Scotland in March 2010.

Unfortunately the coach was travelling in snowy, icy weather and the vehicle collided with a bridge on the A73 near Biggar, Lanarkshire, and fell into the river, resulting in the loss of life of a student, Natasha Paton.

However, while Sheriff Nikola Stewart said the standard of driving was the cause of the accident, she concluded that the fatality would probably have been avoided if Miss Paton had worn her seat belt.


An inquiry had heard that all 49 seats were fitted with lap belts and teachers had checked that pupils were wearing them before the coach set off. A second check was carried out once the journey was under way.

At the point of impact at least 9 students were not wearing their seat belts, four of them were sat next to Miss Paton who died. Miss Paton was ejected from her seat in the collision, thrown out of the window which smashed, offering no resistance to her passage as the coach fell sideways through the descent from the bridge. Miss Paton died from drowning as a result of becoming pinned underneath the bus after she was thrown out of a window by the force of the collision.

The Sheriff concluded that ‘the wearing of a seat belt by herself and others seated near to her may have prevented Miss Paton’s death.’

This article stresses the importance of wearing a seat belt. The vehicles are fitted with seat belts for a reason – they save lives. On a coach journey where speeds can rise to 62mph in a coach, seat belts can be vital. In the example of this story, the vehicle was only travelling at 25mph, but was in extreme road conditions. In any condition, seat belts must be worn.

The operator will take responsibility by placing the rule in their terms and conditions. They will add signs on the vehicles, they will train their drivers to make safety announcements stressing the importance of seat belts. Group organisers and teachers will check seat belts are being worn. Drivers will check before they set off. But, surely the ultimate final responsibility is with the passengers themselves, no matter what age the students are?

The importance of parents training their children from an early age to travel safer is under valued in our opinion. When carrying students, drivers and organisers can do everything they can do, but teenagers should show some maturity and follow the rules.

You never can be too safe.
If you are taking a school trip in the near future. Buckle up. Clunk click – every trip.

Best Regards,

Philip Hitchen

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