Local Lawyer Concerns for Coach Safety
Neil Lorimer, a leading personal injury lawyer at local solicitors Lanyon Bowdler, is calling for tougher implementation of coach safety laws for passengers and operators alike.
On Friday 5 January 2007 at around 6.30am a coach carrying pupils from Kingsland Grange School for boys in Shrewsbury slid on ice and crashed; seriously injuring one of the teachers at the school. The teacher came out of his coma and thankfully made great progress, the passengers on the coach were wearing seatbelts.
This was preceded by another tragic coach crash, when the London-to-Aberdeen National Express overturned with tragic consequences.
Neil comments, “I was very distressed to read from the initial reports of the London crash that many of the passengers suffered appalling injuries and some were not wearing seat belts. Following a change in the law, coach operators must take reasonable steps, (such as a safety announcement or prominent sign at the seat), to notify passengers of the need to use seat belts. But if insufficient steps are taken or there is not a safety enforcement culture it’s pointless. Maybe there needs to be a sanction for coach operators if passengers are not belted up."
Neil, settled claims relating to a large number of deaths and casualties when 11 people, including six from Shropshire, were killed and 60 injured when their holiday coach careered off a French motorway in 1990. At that time it was not obligatory for seat belts to be fitted. Following this crash, Neil campaigned with others for seat belts to be fitted.
In 2004 new regulations were introduced which stated that any passenger over fourteen must wear a seat belt (if there is one provided). Since September 2006 this applies to all coaches (including minibuses) with more than eight passengers. However, currently regulations requiring children three years to thirteen years to use seat belts (or child restraints if they are available) have not been introduced and will be brought forward as soon as practicable. The regulations will not include any obligation for anyone to provide child restraints in these vehicles.
Neil continues, “I have spent many years dealing with the consequences of these tragic accidents. Reports state that there have been a number of amputees. These victims will have immediate and future needs with respect to loss of earnings, care and household assistance, transport, prosthetics, accommodation and special equipment. Money may help in meeting these needs but their lives will be changed for ever.”