Coroner questions disparity over seatbelt regulations
A Mackay coroner has questioned why there were regulations that required buses carrying school kids on high risk roads to be fitted with seatbelts, but not those carrying the general public on the same roadway.
Tafe student Casey Stinson-Brown, 19, died in a fatal bus rollover while travelling between Cannonvale and Proserpine on February 16, 2016.
The Whitsunday Transit bus he was riding was not required to have seatbelts. When the bus rolled down a grassy culvert, most of the 10 passengers and the driver were flung from their seats.
Tragically Mr Stinson-Brown died as a result of his injuries.
Mackay Coroners Court heard the Department of Transport and Main Roads had classified Shute Harbour Rd where the fatal bus crash occurred as an environment 2-type roadway.
Steep roads like the Eton, Sarina and Eungella Ranges are classified as environment 3 roads.
The court heard recommendations handed down in 2001 - with links to a 1987 fatal school bus crash on the Gillies Range in Far North Queensland that killed eight children - pushed for "every bus operating" on E2 and E3 roadways to be fitted with seatbelts by 2017.
In Queensland, currently only buses carrying schoolchildren on E3 roads are required to have seatbelts.
The court heard a bus carrying the general public on the same E3 road was not required to have seatbelts - but if there were seatbelts passengers must wear them.
"Why do schoolchildren get the protection of the seatbelt where the ordinary citizen doesn't?" Coroner David O'Connell queried TMR expert witness Nigel Ellis.
"I just wanted to know why there would be a difference in the regulation."
Mr Ellis said some of the reasons might be "practicality, cost … engineering considerations".
Mr O'Connell also queried whether or not it was the intention of the committee who handed down the 2001 recommendations that "all buses on E2 routes would have seatbelts".
"It appears at the time that was the intention," Mr Ellis said, adding he could not say what happened between then and now.
Mr O'Connell asked for these matters to be addressed further in the closing statements.
The court heard testimony in relation to retrofitting existing buses with seatbelt compliant seats.
TMR expert engineer Adam Shaw, who gave evidence on Tuesday afternoon, said there would be a significant cost attached and capacity would be severely reduced.
An example was given in relation to a wheelchair accessible route bus that had capacity for 91 passengers that included both seated and standing.
Mr Shaw said necessary modifications to make seating seatbelt compliant would result in capacity being reduced by 65.
Mr Shaw said the buses would also need to be fitted with appropriate wheelchair restraints.
The court heard seatbelts were manufactured to suit "the 95th percentile" meaning there would be 5 per cent of people not suitable to use the seatbelts.
The final witness will give evidence on Wednesday morning.