Vehicles running school bus red lights "out of control" board told

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Tina Comeau
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Tri-County Regional School Board director of operations Steve Stoddart holds a phamplet the RCMP recently gave out to drivers at a check stop. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

By Tina Comeau

THE VANGUARD

www.thevanguard.ca

 

Tri-County Regional School Board members have been told that there is a serious issue going on with drivers not stopping when buses have their red lights flashing.

The board’s director of operations says already this school year there have been some very near misses involving students and vehicles that didn’t stop.

“I get up every morning, I know I’ve got 5,000 kids on the road that we’re responsible for,” Steve Stoddart, the director of operations told board members at their Dec. 3 monthly meeting.

Stoddart said bus drivers are reporting instances where vehicles are speeding up, trying to race the red light when they see the amber warning lights flashing.

He noted that from the time school started in September to Oct. 23, there had been 42 reported cases of red light violations within the area served by the Tri-County board.

“We had two near misses – one close enough that one student had to pull another student out of the way or the car would have hit them going through a red light,” Stoddart said. “In my opinion it’s totally out of control in the Tri-County and the province.”

Stoddart said he’s spoken with his counterparts in other school boards and has received similar reports.

He thinks one issue may be inattentiveness of drivers because of cell phones.

He noted there is a province-wide survey happening to get a sense of how widespread the problem of vehicles not stopping for red lights on buses is. He’s hoping the data collected from that survey “will open people’s eyes” as to the seriousness of the issue.

Children who are getting on or off school buses have been taught to look both ways before crossing the road. But they’ve also been taught that vehicles will stop to let them cross the road so often it is something that students take for granted before darting across the road.

Stoddart said it is very difficult to get convictions for red light violations due to single licence plates on vehicles – bus drivers can’t see licence plates as vehicles are approaching. Identity issues are also a factor.

“If you can’t identify the driver the judge won’t hear the case,” he said.

It’s caused some school boards to install special cameras on their buses. The Tri-County board’s transportation department has been asked to report back to the board about the cost of such cameras and their effectiveness in other jurisdictions. This was requested by board member Ron Hines.

The board also passed a motion, made by board member Elizabeth Acker, to send letters to all of the municipal units asking them to have the issue of red light violations raised and discussed at their police advisory committee meetings.

“I wonder if this could be brought up at the principals’ meetings and principals could even include it in letters home to parents,” added board member Joan Brewer. “Parents can be great police people and a community watch sort of thing. If it’s their children that are at risk, parents will be on the lookout for violators of that, at their (bus) stop anyways.”

However a problem, noted Hines, is that some of the violators are probably parents themselves.

“It can be anybody,” he said.

Still, the board said the word has to get out that this is putting the safety of students at risk.

“It’s an issue that needs attention and any way we can get out there we’ve got to get it out there because there is going to be a child killed,” Stoddart said. “It’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when.”

 

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Organizations: Tri-County Regional School Board, Tri-County board

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Recent comments

  • Cindy Hayward
    December 05, 2013 - 05:04

    Cars have gone through the red light at my daughters' bus stop more than once. Fortunately, not so far, this year. One of the times another motorist behind the car that went through the red light got the plate number. It was reported and to the best of my knowledge nothing happened. I strongly feel that number plates need to be put back on the front of vehicles to give bus drivers and other witnesses a better chance of catching these people.

  • Peter Stewart
    December 04, 2013 - 16:03

    A large part of the problem lies in the inability to get a conviction...people feel a form of invincibilty. That said, children are supposed to wait at the front of the bus before crossing the road until the driver has given the OK to cross. Parents could play a huge part in teaching their children to do this.

  • Charlene Hubbard
    December 04, 2013 - 12:46

    Drivers who do that should be charged with attempted murder. There is a very real risk of killing somebody and they know it, so they should be charged accordingly. If they claim they "didn't see" the lights, they should at the very least have their licenses taken away; if you can miss a big yellow school bus with blinking lights all over it, you shouldn't be behind the wheel.

  • Shanna Surette
    December 04, 2013 - 09:17

    A traffic camera on the bus would have been a handy thing to have when someone almost hit my daughter. It happened so fast the bus driver couldn't get the plate number and was more concerned about my daughter and the fact that my son had to pull her out of the way. If there had of been a camera on the bus that day, the careless person who didn't stop would have been caught. All school boards should be looking into improving bus safety because too many drivers don't pay attention or are in too much of a hurry to care about the safety of the children. People need to slow down and pay attention!

  • Jay Hubbard
    December 04, 2013 - 07:56

    A camera triggered by advancing, or retreating objects would get picture(s) of the license plate(s) in question. In conjunction with VERY large fines, I believe this would help to put a stop to the violators.