Give bus drivers criminal checks

24th September 2004 at 01:00
Radical proposals for improving safety on school buses - including criminal checks on drivers - were put to Welsh Assembly members this week.

The recommendations came as Cardiff bus driver Colin Haynes was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving after a pupil who clung to the side of his bus fell off and suffered fatal injuries.

Luke Tanhai, 13, who had been permanently excluded from Cardiff high school, died last September after he and two friends tried to ride the outside of the bus for a dare.

Mr Haynes was also found not guilty of careless driving by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court after insisting he had not seen Luke.

Dangerous behaviour on school buses has been high up the political agenda since the death of Stuart Cunningham-Jones nearly two years ago. The 12-year-old died at Ystradowen, near Cowbridge, when his bus left the road and crashed into a tree in December 2002. Thirty other children were injured.

An inquest heard that the driver lost control when unruly pupils grabbed the wheel and the bus careered off the road.

Justin Davies, of the Confederation of Passenger Transport in Wales, told the Assembly's education committee: "We believe a lot can be done in this area."

And John Davies, from the Welsh Local Government Association, added: "Pupil safety must be top of the agenda."

Based on separate studies carried out by their two organisations, the two men made a series of recommendations to the education committee, including:

* vetting all drivers by running a search via the Criminal Records Bureau;

* introducing a national school pass scheme to identify which children should travel on which service and exclude troublemakers;

* staggering school hours so buses can make more than one trip in the mornings and afternoons to save money;

* agreeing codes of conduct between pupils, drivers, school governors, teachers and local authorities. The Vale of Glamorgan authority has already produced a model;

* phasing out double-decker buses for single-deckers;

* installing CCTV on all vehicles.

John Davies said in some areas, including Pembrokeshire, parents and children had signed good behaviour "contracts".

Plaid Cymru committee member Owen John Thomas suggested adults watch over pupils on buses. But Justin Davies said it was difficult to find volunteers.

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