With the new school year now well underway, motorists must remain attentive when encountering school buses and when traveling through school or playground zones in the Lakeland. Motorists driving past stopped school busses when they are required to stop has become an issue in the Lakeland.
This is a very dangerous practice that puts the lives of children in the Lakeland and youth at risk.
On January 12, Director of Transportation, Matt Richter made a presentation at the Northern Lights Public Schools Board (NLPS) meeting concerning student transportation and the dangers of “flybys” of school buses by motorists.
“We have had an ongoing issue with drivers who pass school buses that are stopped with their flashing red lights on and their stop arms out,” Nicole Garner, Communications for NLPS told Lakeland Connect. “It is an issue both in town and out on the highways. When the buses are stopped like that, they are either picking up or dropping off students and this creates a very dangerous situation.”
Garner says sometimes students have to cross the road or highway after exiting the bus and there have been some near misses when vehicles blew by the stopped bus as the student was starting to cross the road.
Richer told Trustees that even some motorists have passed the stopped bus with lights flashing in the inside lane.
Trustee Kissel said at the meeting, “We are extremely fortunate that we have not had a student killed or injured as a result of these flybys.”
Garner told Lakeland Connect luckily the school bus drivers have been very vigilant while students are boarding or exiting the bus.
“Fortunately we have very vigilant bus drivers who have been able to warn students or even close the bus door to prevent a student from exiting and being hit by a vehicle,” Garner said. “There have even been incidents where drivers passed buses on the right, which of course is where the door of the bus is locating so right where students would be either lined up to get on the bus or just stepping off of the bus.”
Right now, the average is about three flybys per week by Lakeland motorists and that is just NLPS buses.
Other school divisions are reporting similar experiences, Garner added.
“A few years ago, NLPS took a resolution to the Alberta School Boards Association, which was passed, to lobby the provincial government to fund the installation of stop-arm cameras on school buses to make it easier to identify and prosecute drivers who ignore all of the warnings and fly by our buses,” Garner said. “Right now some of our buses have exterior cameras, but not all of them.”
Staff Sgt. Sarah Parke told Lakeland Connect, “The fine for Passing a School Bus with Alternating Flashing Red Lamps is $486.”
The NLPS would like to remind all drivers of school bus safety practices when school buses are stopped with their yellow or red lights flashing:
- When you see a school bus, assume children will be around and take extra care – leave lots of space around the bus;
- When the bus turns on the flashing yellow lights – this means it is about to stop to pick up children. Slow down and prepare to stop;
- When the bus turns on the flashing red lights – this means STOP in BOTH directions. Never pass a school bus with flashing red lights in either direction. Stop well back from the bus. If you have any doubt about what to do – STOP!
Lakeland Connect would also like to remind motorists to remain alert and to watch out for children near schools, sidewalks, crossing streets, and in-school parking lots.
- Be on the lookout for school zone signals/signs and ALWAYS obey the posted speed limits;
- Be alert and aware, do not drive distracted.
“On the heels of the recent freezing rain weather, the Bonnyville RCMP would like to remind motorists to slow down,” Staff Sgt. Parke said. “It’s more important to give yourself extra time to get where you’re going than to travel too fast for the road conditions. If everyone else around you seems to be moving slower, you are likely moving too fast.”