Tina Comeau photo
By Tina Comeau
With the school year approaching school boards are hoping people will finally learn that you cannot pass a school bus that has its red lights activated.
It is a message that hasn’t been getting across to all drivers, evident by the fact that during the last school year Tri-County Regional School Board saw in excess of 100 violations.
Forty-two of the reported cases came in the first two months of the school year. Things didn’t slow down as the time went on with 63 more violations reported from January to mid-April in Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties.
Motorists failing to stop for red lights on buses is a huge safety concern, since the flashing red lights means that students are present and could be crossing the road.
During the last school year there were a few close calls of students nearly getting hit.
Steve Stoddart, the board’s director of operations, says they have taken steps to try and catch violators, in the hope that charges and convictions will curb this behavior – although the main reason the school board wants people to stop doing this is because it puts students’ lives at risk.
“We have installed high density cameras on a number of our buses and we will be making every effort to identify violators,” says Stoddart. “The police departments have also been very supportive of our efforts.”
The cameras are quite expensive and therefore haven’t been installed on all buses as there are around 80 in the fleet.
“We’ll target the high incident areas but if another area comes up in high incidents we’ll move the buses,” Stoddart says.
The cameras can pick up the face of an approaching driver. Some of these cameras were installed late in last year’s school year and did help to identify some drivers. A conviction of not stopping for a bus can result in six demerit points on a driver’s record and a monetary fine. The fine for a first offence of not stopping for a school bus that is flashing its red lights is $406.45. A second offence is $693.95 and a third offence is $1,268.95.
Stoddart says there were two convictions during the last school year.
There are people who also pass stopped buses from behind. While you can pick up a licence plate, it is harder to identify these drivers.
“That’s the one that just shocks me,” Stoddart says. “That people would pass from the rear.”
When this information was passed on to board members last year they were visibly stunned by such disregard for student safety.
Meanwhile, Stoddart says parents should also have discussions with their children.
“The best advice is to make sure they look both ways when they cross the road. We’ve got the bus and the red lights and the arm activated, but it’s only as good as that driver that is coming along,” he says.
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