Wheels are turning in the drive to get seat belts on school buses with a petition presented on the steps of Parliament this week.
The petition, which gained more than 6500 signatures in four weeks, was presented to National MP Jacqui Dean on Wednesday by its organiser Philippa Cameron and Federated Farmers vice-president Karen Williams.
The pair were backed by representatives of Rural Women NZ and St John NZ.
Both organisations agreed it was unsafe and illogical for parents dropping their children off by car at pick-up points for the school bus run, unbuckling their youngsters from legislatively-required restraints and seat belts, only to put them in buses that don't have the same basic safety equipment.
In many rural areas, school buses travelled long distances on winding, gravel roads that were shared by milk tankers and forestry trucks travelling at open road speeds, Williams said.
It was also an issue in urban areas.
Williams and Cameron said they'd heard from bus drivers who were very uncomfortable that they got to wear a seat belt, but that protection was missing for the children riding behind them.
"In social media responses, people have told a lot of stories about when their kids were in a (school bus) crash, or when the bus driver had to put the brakes on really suddenly. Children sitting in that front seat have gone over the rails into the footwell, others have smacked their teeth, Williams said.
"Unfortunately, unless there's a fatality, it doesn't seem to count."
Cameron, a farmer from Waitaki Valley, said in her district she talked to a bus driver who won't put 5, 6 and 7-year-olds in the front seats.
"That poor bus driver feels responsible for their safety so she puts them further back so they won't fly through the front."
Cameron and Williams said they don't expect overnight change but want to see a plan for staged implementation.
That could start with the Ministry of Education requiring, from a given date, that any company tendering for a school route must use buses fitted with seat belts.
Jacqui Dean, who chaired Parliament's Petitions Committee, pledged to put it before MPs so information could be gathered and next steps decided.
"In my own district of North Otago, we've had buses slide off unsealed roads," Dean said.
"We'll get Philippa to Zoom in to our committee. I'm looking forward to hearing more from her and finding a way forward. She's pragmatic - she's a farmer!"