School Bus Safety Hits the Front Page

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Cars passing buses is a big problem in the Region of Waterloo. When a large yellow bus is stopped on the road with the stop arm extended out the side and the lights flashing you are required by law to stop in both directions to permit the bus to load or offload children.

In the Region of Waterloo, a 2016 pilot project placed cameras on 6 buses for 23 days and the news was bad. It showed that in three weeks 97 drivers passes stopped buses. Waterloo Region has had fatalities involving people hitting children loading on buses. The school Board estimates that the cost of cameras will be around $6 million for the entire fleet.

The Provincial government made significant announcements last week regarding the increasing problem of drivers who are passing loading school buses on the roads of the province. School bus drivers throughout the province are reporting regular occurrences of car and truck drivers pulling out to pass them even though the stop sign is out and lights on the busses are flashing. This is illegal and a serious driver error that endangers the lives of children.

One of the proposals put forth will allow evidence from bus stop-sign cameras to admitted in court without additional driver or witness testimony. This is a great step forward as it should free up driver time to drive. The cameras are detailed enough to allow for easy identification of the vehicles that pass stopped buses.

Questions remain from the municipalities who fund school bus transportation through the school taxation. Unknown details at this point include who will fund the purchase of cameras for the buses as not all buses are equipped, who will pay for their installation and operation? Waterloo Region has approximately 375 yellow school busses that would need to be equipped.

The Region is hoping that regulations will give them some understanding of the details regarding jurisdiction of ticketing as well. The MTO has indicated that the installation of cameras on buses is voluntary at this point and that all fine revenues will be retained by municipalities. Individual municipalities will have to determine if they believe that their jurisdictions have a problem that warrants installation of cameras.

Keeping students safe en route to and from school is a shared responsibility between school boards, the municipalities and the province. The details of any legislation should make the responsibilities and liability matters clear.

Passing a stopped bus is illegal and if you are caught you face:

  • fines of $400-$2000
  • 6 demerit points

Additional offences carry:

  • increased fines of $1000- $4000
  • additional 6 demerit points
  • jail time of up to 6 months.