The legislation which came into force this week orders coaches and minibuses to be fitted with belts, but exempts pre-1988 vehicles.
Safety campaigners say the new law contains dangerous loopholes. The road safety group Busk says around 80 per cent of vehicles currently used to transport schoolchildren are exempted by the legislation. This is because coaches built before 1988 have a further 12 months to implement the compulsory changes. And they are ill-equipped to be fitted with seatbelts, according to Busk.
Pat Harris of Busk said some local authorities were cynically avoiding the costs by switching school transport from coaches to buses not covered by the law.
Youth group leaders warned some of their members could not afford to make the changes and appealed for National Lottery cash.