- New guidelines around school trips will save lives, according to a Rotorua coroner.
New guidelines around school trips will save lives, according to the Rotorua coroner whose rulings prompted them.
Coroner Wallace Bain said he was pleased with new, strengthened guidelines from the Ministry of Education which recommended that schools consider having an awake observer in the vehicle who is watching the driver for signs of fatigue.
It follows a recommendation from Coroner Bain as part of the inquest into the deaths of Queensland teacher Andre Vogel, 36, and student Gabriel Runge, 16, in a crash near Reporoa in November 2014.
Coroner Bain found driver fatigue was a major factor in the crash, which happened as the group travelled back towards Rotorua after completing the Tongariro Crossing.
Speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post, Coroner Bain said he was pleased with the new recommendations which he believed would save lives.
"From a coroner's perspective it is making a difference.
"It really is what coroner's court is about."
He said the Ministry of Education should be congratulated for its quick response.
"Parents can rest a lot easier knowing when children are transported that the driver fatigue will be addressed as much as it can be."
Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the crash was a tragedy and the ministry's thoughts were with those affected.
"Our guidance to schools is that they should have strategies in place to avoid driver fatigue, and should take into account how many hours of driving will be required."
She said as a result of the coroner's recommendations the Ministry had taken a good look at the guidance to schools and strengthened that further to say schools should also consider having an observer in the vehicle who was awake, and kept an eye on the driver in case of driver fatigue.
"That's a sensible practice that families often follow when they are on long road trips.
"Other adults in the car notice if a driver is getting too tired, and will suggest the driver has a break. We think that would help children keep safe on schools trips too."
Ms Casey said the ministry believed the guidance would strengthen the already generally good practices by schools.
"Thousands of school trips take place every year, generally without any problems. We have confidence that schools carefully plan such trips and always put the safety of children first."
She said the guidelines were not binding, as schools were responsible for the health and safety of their students and best placed to make the right decisions in the interest of their students.
"We've let school leaders know about the update in guidance, and have suggested they contact their education advisor at the ministry if they have any questions."