Stopping for a School Bus
According to the Association of School Transportation Services of British Columbia, travel by school bus is statistically the safest method of ground transportation in Canada and by a substantial margin. I’m sure that we all expect and demand nothing less when our children and grandchildren are riding those buses to and from schools and school related events. Surely all drivers should understand this and not hesitate to stop when the red lights on a stopped bus are flashing.
Unfortunately, this is not so. Last January CTV News rode along in a Surrey school bus and recorded many drivers who did not even slow as they passed by the bus while it was in the process of unloading students at the end of a school day. They also interviewed one driver who became very emotional as he described a near miss when he was dropping off two little girls.
Calls were made for increasing the penalty for drivers who ignored the flashing red lights from $167 and 3 penalty points to something more significant. The provincial government agreed and increased the fine to $368. CTV claims that this is still much lower than some other provinces in Canada, the highest being Ontario with a penalty of $400 to $2,000 and six penalty points for a first offence.
There was also a mention of the possibility of placing camera systems on B.C. school buses to record violations. Gatekeeper Systems of Abbotsford has supplied Prince Edward Island with their Student Protector Licence Plate Reader system for that province’s school bus fleet. I was unable to find out anything about whether that system was still in operation or how effective it might be. There has been no indication of the success of cameras being used on school buses in B.C., but police did issue 200 tickets for failing to stop using conventional methods in 2015.
Our provincial driving manual Learn to Drive Smart (page 92) teaches that one must stop when you approach a school bus displaying flashing red lights from the front or the rear, no matter what lane you are in. Drivers are also advised that they must not start moving again until the bus driver signals it is safe by turning off the lights and pulling in the stop sign.
So, what about the driver I watched who met a school bus lit up and discharging students while it was stopped in a T intersection? That driver was approaching from the side and facing a stop sign. She signalled, stopped, turned right and drove away even though unloading was still in progress.
Our Motor Vehicle Act, which supersedes the Learn to Drive Smart manual, requires drivers to stop when meeting a school bus with red lights flashing. This would cover an approach from any direction, so drivers must pay more attention and think carefully as the red lights on the bus face forward and back, not to the side. It makes sense as students may choose to walk around either end of the bus to cross the road.
We’re on the brink of another school year and we’ll find school buses and students on the roads again. See, Think, Do and stop when necessary. It’s not only the law, but good roadsense!