Manitoba

Manitoba mom straps in for fight with province over seatbelts on buses

A Manitoba woman is buckling in for a battle with the province over the lack of seatbelts on school buses.

'I've watched a lot of simulations of unbelted kids and they're flying around like pinballs'

A 17-year-old died after being ejected from a school bus that was hit by a gravel truck in Rimbey, Alta., in 2008. Over the past 30 years, there have been at least 23 school bus passenger deaths in Canada. (Submitted by Kirsten Hodgeson)

A Manitoba woman is buckling in for a battle with the province over the lack of seatbelts on school buses. 

Petra McGowan is spearheading a movement to change the rules for buses as the founder of Manitoba Parents for Mandatory Seatbelts.

McGowan's six-year-old daughter spends an average of 1½ hours on the bus each day and she's concerned about her well-being.

"As soon as my six-year-old stepped on board of a school bus, I was very confused about the lack of seatbelts," she said.

"We drill our children that they have to buckle in when they get into the car, that it prevents them from getting injured, so even my little one was confused." 

McGowan was inspired by an investigation by The Fifth Estate that found seatbelts could have prevented thousands of injuries and deaths.

The Fifth Estate investigation also found that a 1984 Transport Canada study deeply exaggerated the "harmful nature" of seatbelts.

Since the study, there have been 23 reported deaths in Canada and 10,480 documented injuries.

"The study only looked at front and rear collisions, completely omitting the most lethal impact in rollovers and sideways impact," said McGowan, who looked up the 1984 study after reading about it.

She worries about what will happen if her daughter's bus is involved in a collision.

"I've watched a lot of simulations of unbelted kids in school buses and they're flying around like pinballs," she said.

Following The Fifth Estate investigation, then Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne introduced a bill to add seatbelts to all buses in that province.

McGowan wants the same thing to happen in Manitoba.

"Ideally, I would like to see a bill tabled just like what happened in Ontario," she said.

McGowan said her group is growing — in two days, they've added 63 members. 

"From my understanding, lots of parents do share my concern." 

A spokesperson for Ron Schuler, minister of infrastructure, sent a statement. 

"The minister's office did receive correspondence from the individual in question very recently, and will be responding in short order," the statement says.

"The federal government is reviewing this matter and we await their findings."

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