Flashing lights would improve rural school bus safety


The requirement to reduce your speed to 20 kilometres when passing a stationary school bus has been extended to 20 seconds before and after it stops if it’s displaying a flashing sign.

Calculating 20 seconds before the bus stopped would be more than a little difficult without a sign to signal it.

Rural Women are pleased with this decision and wants the government to take the next step and approve an active school bus sign that includes the 20 km/h limit.

“Our research shows that many New Zealand drivers, as well as tourists, are unaware of the 20kmh limit and are failing to slow down, making our children very vulnerable, especially on rural roads where there are no footpaths,” says RWNZ health spokesperson, Kerry Maw.

 Current approved school bus signs include one of children crossing with flashing ‘wig wag’ lights, but there is no approved sign that includes the 20kmh speed limit.

 Rural Women New Zealand has worked extensively with traffic engineering researchers who have developed an active 20kmh school bus sign, but the sign awaits approval from the NZ Transport Agency.

Testing of the prototype sign has shown it to be very effective in slowing drivers. Overseas research also supports the use of clear speed limit signage.

 Rural communities have begun to raise funds for active 20kmh signs for their local school buses, and keenly await their approval and production.

 “The number of children killed and injured after getting off school buses has not improved for 30 years, and behind every statistic is a devastated family,” says Mrs Maw. 

 “It is time we focused on every possible solution to ensure our school children are kept safe.”

 The 20 km/h limit rule isn’t well understood and it’s not always easy to recognise a school bus when you’re travelling at open road speeds.

 The requirement to have active signs warning of the limit would make it much easier to see the buses and make it much clearer to drivers that they have to slow down.

Kill the speed not the child – updated


A friend noticed a police car trailing a school bus on State Highway 1 recently, ticketing drivers who didn’t slow to 20 kms/hr which is the maximum for passing a school bus when it has stopped to pick up or let off children.

There’d have been rich pickings because although that’s the law, a lot of people don’t know it and it’s too easy for those who do to forget about it or simply not notice the buses.

Rural Women has been campaigning to raise awareness of the need to slow to 20 km/hr when passing stationary school buses.

“Now it’s time to act,” says Rural Women New Zealand National President, Margaret Chapman.  “We want to see 20km/h signs displayed on all school buses.  Too many people are either ignorant or this section of the Road Code, or simply ignore it.”

 RWNZ is also calling for flashing ‘wig wag’ lights to be installed on school buses, which would operate when the bus had stopped or is pulling away, alerting drivers that they are approaching a school bus.


The idea of flashing lights is a good idea because, although buses ought to be big enough to stand out, it’s too easy to approach them without realising they’ve stopped.

If you don’t realise the bus has stopped until you’re close to them it’s hard enough to slow to 20 kilometres when you’re in a 50 km/hr zone, it’s harder still on the open road when you’ve been doing 100 km/hr.

I was following a car last week when the driver jammed on the brakes, it was only after I’d slowed too that I noticed a school bus stopped on other side of the road.

A 12 year old boy was killed after getting off a school bus in Matamata on Friday. Nothing has been reported about the speed the car which hit him was travelling but the accident has prompted a warning from police about the need to slow down near school buses.

Rural Women’s slogan, kill the speed, not the child  is to the point, but until their suggestion of better signage and flashing lights on school buses is adopted, the message isn’t going to get through.

UPDATE: The Sunday Star Times (not on line) reprots that the bus had started driving off after the boy got off and had gone some distance.

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