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Ontario mandates new amber-red light warning system on school buses

generic school bus
School bus featuring amber-red light warning system. File Photo / Global News

It’s the first week of summer break for most elementary and secondary students across the province, which means school buses, for the most part, will be parked for the next two months.

But when they hit the road again in September, they’ll feature a new eight amber-red light warning system.

READ MORE: Girl hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after incident involving N.B. school bus

The goal is to increase rider safety and decrease the number of motorists who fail to stop for school buses.

“Amber lights are used elsewhere (in Canada and the U.S.) and it’s been found they do help get the attention of other drivers in the vicinity of a bus,” said Joel Slogett, CAO of Peterborough-based Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO).

“So when the lights go off, you know the bus is going to stop in the very near future.”

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Police will be treating the new amber-red lighting system like they treated the traditional lighting system — if you run it, you will be charged. It’s zero tolerance.

“It’s a step in the right direction. Whenever drivers are in the presence of school buses, they should be where they can stop at any time. Drivers need to be aware of that,” Peterborough County OPP constable Joe Ayotte said.

“It’s a $490 fine and six demerit points if a driver runs a school bus with its red lights and stop sign out.”

Sloggett tells Global News Peterborough that he expects bus companies under STSCO’s umbrella to complete the retrofit by mid-August, just in time for the start of the new school year.

READ MORE: School bus and pickup truck collide east of Peterborough

The updated lighting requirements came into effect on July 1, requiring all buses manufactured on or after January 2005 to switch to the new system.

Buses will have to display revised signage on the rear of the vehicles to read, “do not pass when red lights flashing.”

“Safety is the bottom line and if it helps, we’re all for it,” added Sloggett.

“Slow down and get ready to stop. Don’t race to get past it because the few seconds you save could lead to a major accident.”

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To support the successful implementation of this new system, bus companies are getting a grace period until Sept. 1 from the Ministry of Transportation.

Operators and companies can apply to the government for grant money to complete the retrofit.

The deadline to apply is July 31.

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