August 29, 2014 8:49 pm

Back to School: Drivers reminded not to pass school buses with flashing lights

As a school bus operator, Connelia ‘KC’ Marten has had her fair share of close calls.

“Each route, you’re going to have cars going by you. You’re always watching. ‘Is that car going to stop?’ Please stop. We just want to get our kids home safe,” said Marten.

Her route takes her along highway 845 in Coaldale, one filled with fast moving traffic.

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“There was a car way off in the distance and I thought ‘oh that car that’s so far away, surely she’s going to see my lights’. I’m looking and I’m looking and that lady is not slowing down,” said Marten. “So I did honk my horn and this little guy he turned on a dime and quickly dove into my bus on the steps. So my heart was racing and I was very upset.”

School bus safety is especially important at this time of year.

The bus line sees a notable increase in ‘fly-by’ incidents after any kind of break from school, summertime being the worst.

This led Palliser Regional Schools to develop the ‘Think of Us on the Bus’ campaign. Now its third year, the awareness and enforcement effort is making a significant difference. In the 2012-2013 year, there were 77 reported incidents of ‘fly-bys’. Last year, that number dropped 27%.

On top of educating the public on bus safety, punishing those who break the law has also been an effective tactic. Palliser bus lines has been adding cameras to catch the license plate numbers of cars that pass illegally.

“We had seven last year and this year we’re upping that by another five. So we’ll have twelve in service,” said Palliser Transportation Services Supervisor David Shaw. “The driver sees someone not stopping, they press a button on the dash, that tags our camera equipment and then we know where to go and what to do to send to police.”

The fine for passing a stopped school bus with its lights flashing is $402 and six demerit points; a small price for the risk of hitting a young child just heading back to school.

“We’ve got a lot of kids we’re transporting. And we all want to get them on and off our buses safe,” said Marten. “So please watch for us, please watch for our lights, and please watch for our children.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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