Ten per cent of school minibuses have mechanical defects, road-safety experts discovered in a survey of 100 vehicles carried out by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Two of the minibuses did not even have MoT certificates and six had serious tyre defects.
The most common problem was under-inflated tyres, which Bob Smalley, chief examiner for RoSPA, warned could be deadly if ignored.
"A full minibus, with under-inflated tyres, can cause havoc to the steering and handling capabilities of a vehicle," he added.
RoSPA has now joined with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in a campaign to improve minibus driving. A poster highlighting the essential checks that a driver should make has been sent out to 20,000 schools.
The campaign arose in response to the Government's decision, made earlier this year, not to include volunteer drivers in new European Union licensing regulations which will take effect from next summer. An EU directive requires drivers of 8 to 16-seater minibuses to take a special test but the Government decided the law only applies to professional drivers.
Many teachers have taken matters into their own hands and since March more than 600 have taken a RoSPA minibus-driver test. Peter Smith, ATLgeneral secretary, said: "We must ensure that school minibuses are roadworthy and their drivers can cope."