School Trip Safety A Priority For GEM - And Every Parent

When you send your child off on a school trip or organised group visit how certain can you be of their safety?

As the season of school and club journeys gets underway, this is the key question posed by GEM Motoring Assist, the organisation formerly known as the Guild of Experienced Motorists that is concerned with the safety of all road users.

It has produced some pointers and important questions to be asked of tour operators by those responsible for putting an educational or activity visit together to ensure they are not fraught with danger.

David Williams, Chief Executive of GEM, explained: “A well run operation will guarantee the best transport arrangements using well equipped coaches that benefit from having the latest safety features.

“You may well believe that as long as safety belts are provided that this is enough. But it is important to understand that although seat belts play an important role in protecting passengers during an impact other hidden safety elements are just as critical.”

He said that a good tour operator will only hire coaches meeting ECE R66 regulations that effectively mean that the vehicle supplied is built with a structure that will stay in one piece should it be involved in a roll-over accident. “We have seen the value of this strength of build and design philosophy in the recent horrific Virgin Train crash,” David said. “It is also important that the anchorage points for the safety belts also form part of the design and are not an afterthought.”

Travel safety expert Pat Harris says that a good tour operator will not object to answering such questions and if they do you might like to wonder why.

She suggests you query how long the organisation has been established. What are the requirements from its coach operator such as vehicle age, audit trail of maintenance and safety standards and if the coach to be used meets ECE R66?

Pat also says your need establish what insurance cover is in place in the event of a breakdown and does ABTA insurance cover apply? Will criminal record checks be carried out for those adults travelling with the party and will an experienced tour manager be provided independent from the coach company?

She said: “You also need to ask if the coach company will transport pupils through the night and will a safety charter be provided?

GEM supports its own charity that works to make the travel environment a safer place.

13 March 2007 Staff

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