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Pat Harris Founder of BUSK  Inspirational Speaker School Safety belt campaigner

Pat Harris founded BUSK in February 1993 after her four year old son was injured on his school bus. He did not have a safety belt. Her campaign highlighted the need for safety belts for pupils on the daily journey to and from school. Pat Harris became one of Britain's best known safety campaigners resulting in a legal requirement for all coaches and minibuses that carry children to be equipped with safety belts.

Pat Harris Inspirational Speaker School  Safety belt campaigner

Pat Harris Founder of BUSK  Inspirational Speaker School Safety belt campaigner

Pat Harris founded BUSK in February 1993 after her four year old son was injured on his school bus. He did not have a safety belt. Her campaign highlighted the need for safety belts for pupils on the daily journey to and from school. She became one of Britain’s best known safety campaigners resulting in a legal requirement for all coaches and minibuses that carry children to be equipped with safety belts.

Pat Harris not only altered the face of the coach and bus industry but made legal history when she took her local authority to the High Court in 1994 over it’s transport arrangements for her children. The Judicial Review was written into the Law Books by Dr. Neville Harris, Reader in Law at Liverpool University.

In the early campaign days it was hard to grab the attention of anyone that could make changes to the system that had been the norm for so many years that allowed up to 50% extra children to be carried on a bus than the carrying capacity. In a school uniform between Monday and Friday this was quite a legal practice but at weekends if the same children travelled as members of the public on a bus in the same overcrowded conditions then it would be deemed unsafe and unlawful. Pat became a familiar face and name in Brussels and at the House of Commons as she regularly challenged ministers.

Her tenacity and dedicated approach to changing the status quo resulted in making the school journey much safer in many areas of the UK. Pat has been presented with many awards including the Childrens’ Safety Award in 1994 and she represented the UK in the 1996 European Alcuin Awards in Copenhagen when she shared a stage with the Danish Prime Minister as a finalist. She was nominated for providing educational material for school children to help keep them safer in transit.

Pat Harris met with Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock in 1996 in Brussels and after meetings with his cabinet members and those for the Commissioner of Trade and Industry, she persuaded Mr. Kinnock that there was a need for a study into the safety of children whilst they travelled by road. He agreed and the following year engaged her in part of a European Study into Safety Of Children In Transit with its recommendations published in all member states.

Pat  Harris
fought for childrens’ rights to travel safely no matter what their post code and has become a familiar face within the bus and coach industry. Only the best operators and some of the biggest transport companies work alongside her as do most vehicle manufacturers, now keen to ensure they design and build vehicles with the safety of the youngest passengers in mind.

In order that she was taken seriously, Pat Harris learnt about coach and bus designs, how the parliamentary and legal systems work and won the ear of local authorities and other agencies to encourage all to change their attitudes to safety and take seriously the concerns of parents. Along the way many celebrities spoke out in support of her work, in particular, Mike Nolan from Bucks Fizz who almost lost his life when the band’s touring coach was involved in a crash not long after their victory in the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest.

Pat Harris has regularly been interviewed on news and documentary programmes as well as appearing on children’s television programmes. She has participated in numerous radio programmes and debates as well as interviews for regional, national newspapers and magazines. For a number of years Pat Harris has been commissioned to write for publications such as Good Motoring, Independent Schools Magazine and Special Children.

In recent years Pat Harris  has given evidence to the House of Commons for the School Transport Bill and likewise, at the National Assembly for Wales on why transporting children needs a fresh approach and highlighting the dangers not only to pupils on route but the dangers drivers face when they become distracted by bad behaviour.

Today Pat Harris  is Director of BUSK Limited, a consultancy. She undertakes work for various local authorities, writing up transport policies and training courses for pupils, schools and school bus drivers. She has become something of an expert in concentrating the minds of decision makers when it comes to making them understand their moral duty of care for others not to mention their legal one and has demonstrated beyond doubt that pupils respond to respect and are willing to alter their attitude through humour, good fun in the training sessions she provides and empowering them to take control of their own safety. Giving young people confidence so they can ignore peer pressure is hard but not impossible insists Pat Harris. She is also a believer of swift sanctions being delivered if pupils do compromise the safety of others so her approach to changing young people’s bad or unsafe behaviour, whilst being understanding is not a soft touch.

Knowing what will appeal to children and young people Pat Harris has successfully organised national competitions with a safety theme that has attracted thousands of entries. She has also encouraged road safety professionals to use road safety resources which she very often designs herself. Her imagination and humour along with her deep understanding of other people’s point of view on the subject of safety and transporting children has won her much respect in the world of the passenger transport industry.

It didn’t take Pat Harris long to realise that campaigning took funding and to secure an income stream to finance her work she organised many fundraising events over a number of years from simple coffee mornings to driving challenges which would run over two to three days at a time and involve major companies from all walks of life. At just one event more than fifty individual companies from around the UK supported a driving challenge by providing Pat Harris with a least one vehicle and a driving instructor. The vehicle could be anything from a double decked bus to a forty tonne truck. Even local authorities supported the campaign by providing bin lorries and the emergency services would provide fire engines and police driver training as a prize for the person raising the most money. So as well as getting major names involved in her work she got county councils and emergency services to also stump up support. In short, Pat managed to get just about everyone on board her campaign through whatever method necessary which is no mean feat. Mostly Pat Harris would use her humour to get across the need for their help but if that failed she would remind them that her work was to help make life safer for their children. Almost anyone who has a child will want them to have a safety belt if they travel on a school trip in the UK or a visit abroad.

Many families have benefited from the support BUSK has given them, empowering them to challenge their own children’s transport arrangements. Many parents of children who have lost their lives on the school bus journey have also turned to BUSK and have received substantial support and understanding.

Pat  Harris has not only brought up a family of three children but has become an example and inspiration to others that if something is worth fighting for, to go for it and not let anyone stand in the way. She has given parents an eloquent voice and a platform to utilize when they need to make their child’s school sit up and listen to their concerns.

When they have rescued children in coach accidents emergency services have been known to tell parents that they have BUSK to thank because if it were not for the work of BUSK and the determination of Pat Harris, their children would not have had a safety belt.

Pat Harris Founder of BUSK  Inspirational Speaker School Safety belt campaigner


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