Drivers not seeing the light when it comes to school buses

Stephen Brun
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Three Oaks Senior High students board their buses at the end of the school day. Both police and the school board say drivers passing stopped school buses has been an increasing problem as of late.

SUMMERSIDE – Some drivers still haven’t seen the light when it comes to stopping for school buses along P.E.I. roads.

A series of complaints in September prompted Island RCMP to release a reminder to motorists that it’s illegal and dangerous to pass buses while their red lights are flashing.

Bill Gillis, transportation services supervisor for the Western School Board, said he hears those same complaints from local bus drivers on a weekly basis.

“There’s barely a week goes by that we don’t have one or two (complaints),” he said.

“We have some areas that people routinely go through (the lights). We’ve got an area out in Summerfield along Route 2, and sometimes cars heading east… meeting a bus coming west, they figure, ‘Well I don’t have to stop.’”  

All school buses are equipped with amber lights that drivers activate when preparing to stop. The lights automatically turn red when the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

Under the Highway Traffic Act, drivers approaching a bus from both directions are required to stop when the red lights are activated. Failing to do so can result in fines.

“Stopping when you see the yellow warning lights is an extra precaution that takes very little time out of a drivers commute but can go a long way towards ensuring the safety of children traveling to school,” the RCMP release says.

Gillis said his drivers have a rule of thumb to activate their amber lights 150 metres before a stop.

“It gives ample time for people to see, although some people are travelling, perhaps, in excess of the Highway Traffic Act sometimes,” he said.

He added that several local buses are equipped with cameras aimed at capturing the licence plates of offending drivers, but recognizes that it can still be difficult to lay a charge. Bus drivers must also fill out a form that’s passed along to the appropriate authorities if they’re passed by another vehicle.

Regardless, Gillis hopes drivers will get the message for the sake of children’s safety.

“When (students) are getting off in the afternoon, you can keep them inside the bus until the traffic stops. It’s in the morning when they’re crossing the road and the traffic’s coming when you don’t have a lot of control.

“They see the red lights and they assume that it’s safe to go across. We have bus drivers who blow their horns at people, and they don’t even see it sometimes.”


Organizations: Western School Board, RCMP

Geographic location: P.E.I., Summerfield

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Recent comments

  • bob
    October 04, 2012 - 12:27

    strange how everyone is blaming the cars???Not this 30 year old women/man school bus driver who never drove anything bigger than the family car,but managed to pass an airbrake exam and drive around the city for 20 mins to get their commerical license.I seem them every day,they just swing out the stop sign while a transport truck is coming towards them with no chance in hell of getting stopped,not to meantion the bus drivers who look in their mirror and see 20 cars behind them all trying to get to work,i remember when they pulled over to let cars get to work on time,now they don't care,just keep stopping and building traffic.Personally i think its the bus drivers creating the confusion!!!!!!

  • Tired of it
    September 28, 2012 - 21:54

    As hard as this is for you to believe, drivers miss the lights on the school bus because they don't see the BUS! Drivers who don't see the lights/bus are so oblivious to everthing that is going on in their driving environment that it's just nuts. They are rule based drivers who think that if they obey the speed limit and stop at stop sign that they are great drivers. Oh yes, and they have never even had a parking ticket! Like what has that got to do with being a safer driver? That's how brain washed drivers are. Let's work on being attentive as opposed in attentive, distracted and drowsy.

  • SG
    September 28, 2012 - 17:13

    If these Drivers can't see the Red Light Flashing on the Bus HOW would they see a Walk Sign? The Walk Sign would only be more dangerous for our children. I agree with those who suggest FINES. If that doesn't correct the problem maybe losing their license for six months might improve their Eyesight ! If drivers aren't stopping when seeing the Red Light Flashing on a School Bus I have to wonder what they're doing when they approachTraffic Lights?

    • Ulfric
      September 28, 2012 - 23:56

      While the walk sigh is not the exactly Plan A, it would be driver operated. Therefore not turning on until all traffic is stopped. It is not for the cars to see but for the children not to assume it is safe as soon as they see the flashing lights or as soon as they get off. Traffic halts, on go the walk light and child walks. Simple concept really.

  • Justin
    September 28, 2012 - 17:00

    The problem is the aging population plus the position opf the lights. There should be flashing light at eye level same as there is eye level brake lights on all cars now. The problem is the lights are so high up plus the sun shining into them causes you to miss them. If there was lower light that flashed when the bus stopped I believe people would see it more clearly.

    • Ulfric
      September 28, 2012 - 17:46

      Don't tailgate and you will see the lights. Plus when you see the brake lights, shouldn't that be a signal to the brain that the flashing lights may be on? Or at least potentially coming on? Lower ones wouldn't hurt though, as long as the upper ones remain.

    • nitpicker
      September 28, 2012 - 18:17

      Busses have a stop sign that sticks out, with flashing lights that's pretty close to eye level.

  • I see it too
    September 28, 2012 - 14:36

    Simple solution.....FINE THEM! The time for educating drivers about passing school buses with flashing lights ended when the received their lisence. FINE THEM! These drivers should know better. And they should also ALL know that the speed limit in school zones is 30kmh from 8:00am until 5:00pm each school day. Enforce the laws we put in place to protect our children. Huge arguement for Photo Radar in the school zones. It would pay for itself on DAY ONE!

  • voter
    September 28, 2012 - 11:52

    people are too important to follow laws that are not enforced properly -- i give it a 50-50 split -- 1/2 the fault going to lack of enforcement -- the other half to people aiming their cars rather than driving them with due care and attention

  • ED
    September 28, 2012 - 10:50

    PEI has some of the worst drivers on the planet. They are either ignorant of highway rules or they simply don't care. I've seen them passing 5 cars on a double sold line on a bridge going up a hill. That was a woman with three small children in her car.

    • Shellie .B
      September 28, 2012 - 14:37

      Dam straight P.E.I has some of the worst Drivers on 'The Planet." I'd bet $100 bucks right now that many of Them are 'hungover' from dope & liquor in the AM hours from the night before on Their way to work. OF COURSE THEY CAN SEE & UNDERSTAND THE COLOR OF THE SCHOOL BUS LIGHTS - THEY JUST DON'T GIVE A DAM ABOUT OUR CHILDRENS-STUDENTS SAFETY. SUE the azz of anyone and everyone that ever hits anyone who doesn't Stop for Students. >>> FOR The Buses equipped with VIDEO The Cops HAVE TO CHARGE each and everyone of Them that Break The Law that by Not Slowing down at an Amber Then Red Flashing Ligts on School Buses. After all WE PAY COPS & The Crown to do the job They've been Hired to do - so DO IT !

  • Ulfric
    September 28, 2012 - 10:46

    “When (students) are getting off in the afternoon, you can keep them inside the bus until the traffic stops. It’s in the morning when they’re crossing the road and the traffic’s coming when you don’t have a lot of control. “They see the red lights and they assume that it’s safe to go across. We have bus drivers who blow their horns at people, and they don’t even see it sometimes.” Ok bare with me folks because I know job creation is not part of our Gov't agenda, but what about a crossing guard/flager on board each bus that picks up/drops off on these busier highways? OR if you don't want to create jobs, have a "WALK' light on either side of the bus so the kids have something to go be besides assuming it's safe. AND the RCMP can lear the times and locations these buses travel and take some precious time out of their bust day and set up stings. Might be successful on day but not the other, that's fine but the point has to get across somehow. My nerves would be shot if I were a bus driver watching kids cross the highway not knowing it people are going to stop or not. Another idea, photo technology on the bus. When cars pass with the red light flashing, their picture will be taken. I'm sure the budget wouldn't cover that and that is why it is in the paper every few weeks during the school year. Well guess what? You can save money, or you can save lives. Pick one.

  • Sylvia
    September 28, 2012 - 10:46

    Cannot figure out why vehicle drivers do this. School buses are on roads at certain times every day and anyone who's on highways every day should be aware of this. As soon as I see that first school bus and note the time, I know it's time to watch out for buses stopping. I would never forgive myself if I caused injury to a child getting off one of those buses. I think that any driver who passes a school bus when the lights are flashing and are caught should have their vehicle taken away from them for a certain period of time and also lose their licence for the same length of time plus a hefty fine and lots of points taken off their licence. There's absolutely no excuse for doing this.