Drivers not seeing the light when it comes to school buses

Stephen Brun newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on September 28, 2012
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.
Stephen Brun/Journal Pioneer

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.”