Police hammer home message on passing buses

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PEI school bus

Passing a school bus with red lights flashing is inexcusable. That’s the message being hammered home by RCMP on Prince Edward Island time and again. Police use the phrase in every release dealing with the issue. And they are right.

The  $2,000 fine handed a young Summerside man this week, plus eight demerit points, shows that the province, police and courts are determined to make Island roads safe for children. Many school buses are now equipped with cameras to capture any vehicle’s licence plate that passes a school bus when the red lights are flashing.

P.E.I. has the most severe penalties in Canada for the infraction. Fines can reach as high as $5,000.

New Brunswick has fines close to $1,000 but it also includes loss of licence. Oddly, no other province comes close in terms of size of fines or other penalties to those in P.E.I. and N.B.

 It’s almost the first thing a new driver learns when taking courses. There can be no excuse for not knowing the law. As soon as you see a school bus, your first instinct should be to slow down and be prepared to stop.

When a driver is approaching a school bus with the flashing red lights activated, the driver must stop the vehicle not less than six metres (20 feet) from the front or rear of the bus. The vehicle must remain stopped until the flashing red lights stop flashing.

There can only be two reasons for a motorist committing such a flagrant violation of the Highway Traffic Act — a driver had to be using a mobile device or be distracted in some other manner; or the driver decided to deliberately commit the offense.

Either option is a chilling one.

It’s almost impossible to consider that a driver would deliberately put the lives of innocent children at risk because he or she didn’t want to stop, or were in a rush to get somewhere, so the bus is a mere inconvenience.

The court case this week concerned an infraction which occurred last Sept. 18 on Lower Malpeque Road in West Royalty. The bus was stopped with red flashing lights and stop sign clearly displayed.

School had already resumed for two weeks so motorists had to be aware that buses were on the road and children were crossing streets at the time in the morning.

It was fortunate that no child was put in danger, and fortuitous that a Queens District RCMP vehicle was in the area he passed the school bus.

Police used the opportunity to hammer home the message that “This is about the safety of our children and drivers need to understand the gravity of what happening here. Drivers failing to stop in these situations put our children’s lives in danger.”

RCMP are encouraging motorists to report such incidents. Yes, everyone can play a part to ensure a safe and secure environment for our schoolchildren.

Police and Islanders alike are still shaking their heads over an incident early last November when a video by a Brookfield man showing traffic zooming past a school bus that has stopped to pick up children.

The grandfather who shot the video had said that all school year, he saw vehicles race past the bus while it’s stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign out.

Immediately after seeing the video, RCMP sent four unmarked police cars to Route 2 in Brookfield to watch the area.

In a one-hour period, they charged eight people for what they call blatant and aggressive driving behaviour, including a driver for passing a school bus. That person was fined $1,000 and eight demerit points.

Yet, some motorists still put the lives of children at risk and their own freedom in jeopardy with such stupid, foolhardy driving habits.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take a case of a child being injured or worse before some irresponsible drivers finally get the message.

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Summerside, Canada New Brunswick Brookfield Lower Malpeque Road West Royalty

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