Driver behaviour around school buses continues to alarm parents

Photo by local bus driver, Krista Lepage.

Parents of children who take buses to school are urging drivers to be more respectful of the rules when it comes to caution around school vehicles. A reminder of the road rules written by a parent in a community forum ended up eliciting responses from several other parents who have all had frustrating experiences of watching vehicles blow through the stop arm of their child’s bus. 

“No one would want to see the worst-case scenario occur,” said Jason Ball. “I really feel that this isn’t indicative of most drivers in our town. Most are very conscientious and are paying attention.” Jason recently experienced a driver disobeying the flashing signals and stop arm on his son’s bus, which prompted him to reach out publicly to remind drivers that there are severe legal penalties for breaking this road rule. Such penalties pale in comparison to the physical harm and emotional devastation should a child be struck trying to cross the road at a school bus stop. 

“People just need to be reminded to pay more attention, especially in more densely populated areas,” Jason added. “The new amber warning lights are definitely a step in the right direction.” Jason suggests that parents should talk to their children to ensure that they know to be aware of their surroundings, looking both ways and only crossing when it is safe. “Don’t assume everyone is paying attention,” he said. Thankfully, Jason’s son was not in danger when the recent incident occurred, because he didn’t have to cross the street. School bus drivers often play a key role in signaling to students that it’s safe to cross before they can proceed, since they can use mirrors to check for traffic. 

“In general, I think most of us live here because it’s a safe spot to raise our children,” said Jason. “I’m just reminding people that we can do better.”

Arthur Bedford is another parent who recently had a scary experience when waiting at the bus stop. Similar to what far too many parents report, Arthur witnessed a driver pass the stop arm on his children’s bus, even though he was standing in the middle of the road, and the driver had enough awareness of the situation to slow down but still chose not to stop. 

“I think external cameras on the buses to capture cars would be a good idea,” said Arthur. “I think a lot of the drivers are genuinely distracted and not paying attention or paying more attention to kids in their car or being on the phone.” 

Arthur’s advice for other parents is to make yourself visible at your child’s bus stop to add an extra layer of protection. Indeed, when drivers know they are being observed breaking the law by the very people whose children are being put in danger, it may serve as a much stronger motivation to rethink their poor driving decisions than any potential fines or jail time could be. 

The law in the Ontario driving manual is clear:

“As well as the upper alternating red flashing lights, school buses use a stop-sign arm on the driver’s side of the bus. This arm, a standard stop sign with alternating flashing red lights at top and bottom, swings out after the upper alternating red lights begin to flash. Remain stopped until the arm folds away and all lights stop flashing.

It is illegal to fail to stop for a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing. If you don’t stop, you can be fined $400 to $2,000 and receive six demerit points for a first offence. If you are convicted a second time within five years, the penalty is a fine of $1,000 to $4,000 and six demerit points. You could also go to jail for up to six months. In Ontario, school bus drivers and other witnesses can report vehicles that have illegally passed a school bus.”

Keep our kids safe! Stop for the bus!


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