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31st August 2004


<p>In a car, it’s one child per seat, belted in and definitely no standing. On the bus, it’s three children to a seat, no seatbelts and lots of standing room – is this what is best for our children?</p>

At the start of a new school year, passenger representative, the General Consumer Council is calling on government to take immediate action on school transport.  Current legislation allows up to 101 schoolchildren under 14 years old to be carried on a bus with 53 seats and no seatbelts. Commenting today on the safety of the car school run, government states that “if you have a collision, anyone travelling in the vehicle is more than twice a likely to be killed or seriously injured if NOT wearing a seatbelt. But this figure rises to three times when we look specifically at children." [1] The Consumer Council believes that this should apply equally to school buses as well as cars on the school run.

It is now three years since the Assembly's Environment Committee Inquiry into School Transport recommended that every school child should have a seat.  In particular the Committee called for the abolition of the “three for two rule” which allows three children 14 years and under to sit on a seat built for two.  It also recommended the ending of standing on buses as well as the phased fitting of proper seatbelts for school children.

Eleanor Gill, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council, said: “In the three years since the public inquiry, children have made more than 44 million journeys to and from school. Thankfully most of these journeys have been without incident, but this situation is not acceptable or sustainable.

“Every child travelling to and from school should have a seat with a properly fitted seatbelt and not be expected to stand.  The Council does not underestimate the challenge of implementing the Committee's recommendations.  However, in the interests of safety and comfort as well as the promotion of public transport to our young people, government must take immediate action.  

The three for two rule and standing in buses must be scrapped immediately and proposals for the phasing in of seatbelts brought forward.”

Eleanor Gill added: “School buses are the first taste of public transport that children have. If we are to encourage them to use public transport as they get older, their school experience should be a safe and positive one.”


  1. General Consumer Council media contact: Susie Brown, telephone, 028 9067 4807 or e-mail,
  2. The General Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about electricity, natural gas, coal and passenger transport.
  3. For more information, visit our website at

[1]DOE press release – Parents Advised to Belt Up for Return to School – issued 31 August