Sign sense and nonsense

The road rule requiring anyone passing a school bus picking up or letting off children to slow down to no more than 20 kilometres per hour doesn’t appear to be well observed.

That could be because it’s not widely known, it could also be because it’s not always easy to observe.

If you’re on the open road and come upon a stationary bus not far from a corner you’d really have to jam on your brakes to get down to 20 kph in the short distance available.

And that’s if you see it.

If it’s on the other side of the road and there’s other traffic passing it which obscures your view or takes your attention it’s very easy to not register that it’s a school bus.

North Otago thought they had a good idea to make the buses more visible and the speed restriction more obvious – flashing signs saying 20.

But the Ministry of Transport won’t allow them.

About 20 flashing warning signs, which displayed the 20kmh speed limit for passing parked school buses, were given to Ritchies Transport following a community fundraising effort about five years ago, but they were then left gathering dust at the Oamaru bus depot when the ministry asked for them to be removed from buses.

Oamaru Community Constable Bruce Dow said the signs had been ”highly effective” in the brief time they were installed on school buses, and called for the ministry to allow them to be used, or provide replacements.

”With that sign there you not only get warning, because of the flashing lights, but you also get the speed limit. . .

Ministry spokesman Brenden Crocker said at present only three signs had been approved for use on school buses. A flashing sign had been approved but it did not contain a speed limit.

He said in order for the signs to be recognised, they would have to go through a trial process under the auspices of the New Zealand Transport Agency, in order to provide ”sufficient evidence” of their value.

The Ashburton District Council had this month completed a 12-month trial of similar signs but no results had yet been passed on to the ministry, he said.

The use of a flashing sign makes sense, the Ministry’s opposition doesn’t.

There’s good reason not to have a plethora of different signs but could the North Otago signs not be reinstated and used as a trial?

Either way it’s 20 k is a simple slogan but observing it isn’t easy.

Flashing signs alerting drivers that a school bus has stopped and reminding them of the speed limit would surely help.

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