It’s been a little over a month since kids headed back to school in Nova Scotia, and already it seems as though motorists have forgotten — or are ignoring — one of the golden rules surrounding school safety: stopping for school buses when their red lights are flashing.
“It’s a huge issue,” Denise Crouse, transportation co-ordinator with the South Shore Regional School Board, said.
“The province of Nova Scotia had over 1,600 violations in the school year last year. That’s an incredible, high number if you think of the number of students and buses on the road.”
Crouse said despite numerous safety awareness campaigns, media blitzes and enforcement, some motorists continue to ignore the rules.
“It’s astounding. It’s also an epidemic of safety violations because every time someone chooses to go through the flashing red lights of our school bus, they are putting at least one child’s life in danger.”
She said safety is their number one priority when it comes to transporting children to and from school, adding that their drivers are put through an intensive screening and training process.
Const. Bruce Myers with the RCMP said police have received several complaints already this year.
“So far, since Sept. 1, for all of Nova Scotia with the exception of HRM, there have been 54 tickets in total,” Myers said.
He said RCMP work closely with school boards and the community to crack down on anyone who is not obeying the laws surrounding school bus safety.
“A lot of these things we don’t see. We get a lot of calls from parents that witnessed it, or the school board themselves — under direction of the the bus driver that said a vehicle went through,” Myers said, adding they do have ways of finding out who the culprits are.
“Cameras are on some of these buses. We are able to get licence plates so we will find you.”
If caught driving past a stopped school bus, a first offence under the Motor Vehicle Act carries a $410 fine along with six demerit points on the driver’s licence.
Drivers can also be charged for passing a bus that has its amber warning lights flashing. The fine for failing to pass with caution is $295.
“The law requires that a school bus is to put on their yellow lights 150 metres before they come to their actual stop. That is plenty of time for a motorist if they are within 150 metres of them to come to a safe stop,” Myers said.
“We’re not asking them to slam on their brakes if they’re 30 feet in front of the bus when the yellow lights come on,” he added. “That is not safe to do so. That’s why the ticket is issued for not stopping when the amber lights are flashing if you had time to reasonably stop.”
Myers said the issue at hand isn’t so much a lack of education as it is people simply choosing to ignore the rules.
“I don’t know any motorist that does not know to slow down or stop when it comes to a school bus. I think if they choose to do so, it’s their own choice. Overlook the penalties, overlook the monetary aspect — the big thing is, this is kids’ lives here that are crossing the road.”
The theme for this year’s School Bus Safety Awareness Week campaign is “When the lights are flashin’ don’t be passin’.”
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