School bus driver Carol Combs has seen children have to run to get out of the way of cars passing her buses. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

RCMP and school district combine forces in Cowichan on school bus safety

School kids don’t always think about cars when boarding or leaving a school bus: we do it for them

Oct. 21-25 is National School Bus Safety Week, and this year, North Cowichan/ Duncan RCMP and the Cowichan Valley school district partnered to keep students safe in, and around, school buses.

While busing is proven to be the safest form of transportation for students, the areas around buses can still be hazardous due to motorists’ careless behavior.

According to SD 79 communications officer, Mike Russell, “Bus drivers continue to report that some impatient drivers are disregarding the students’ safety and are driving around our buses when they are stopped and have their lights and crossing arm activated.”

Bus driver Carol Combs, who’s been driving for the district for 15 years, says, “I’ve had some pretty close calls. I’ve had to use my air horns to get the kids to jump and get back into the bus and out of the way of the traffic. I’ve seen kids have to run from a car.

“About three weeks ago I had a group of vehicles following behind a dump truck on my route. The dump truck was in the clear and free. He went past me. I deployed my lights and four vehicles went past me in a row,” she said.

“Late last year, the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP and the Cowichan Valley School District teamed up to combat this dangerous trend, with officers following buses and issuing tickets to those who put students at risk,” said Russell. “Over the course of this project, officers wrote five tickets and one warning for failing to stop for school bus that carries a $368 fine. This successful project is in the works again for this year.”

Warnings on social media have plainly not been enough, however.

“Our bus drivers do an exceptional job of ensuring the safety of our learners each and every day,” said Candace Spilsbury, chair of the board of education for the Cowichan Valley School District. “It is unfortunate that many drivers are still driving around our buses as our drivers try to ensure our students get to, and from, schools safely.”

Police are also concerned at this continuing behaviour.

“The safety of our children between their home and school was identified as an issue which has become a priority to us,” says S/Sgt. Chris Swain of North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. “Partnering with SD 79 and starting the Bus Watch program made absolute sense from both a police and parent perspective.”

According to North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP spokesperson Pam Bolton, “members from our Traffic Community Engagement Unit follow buses on their daily routes to make sure vehicles are not passing when the lights are on. Unfortunately we still are [doing so] and tickets are being issued. The fine is $358 and carries a three-point demerit.”

Take note of the bus slowing, watch for the lights to flash, and then, “if the lights are flashing, don’t be passing,” Bolton said.

A class of primary students from Alex Aitken Elementary School got to join the fun Oct. 22, climbing on and off the bus several times for the cameras so reporters could get just the right pictures and video.

School Bus Safety Week is an active and evolving international public education program, and another way for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety.

Held during the third full week of October each year, the program is designed promote school bus safety. School districts throughout the country observe School Bus Safety Week.

***

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, the school district’s transportation department conducted bus evacuation drills on afternoon bus routes.

“The drills are important to better prepare our students and staff in the event of an emergency,” said Transportation manager, Selena Hayes. “The driver will instruct students on how to unload and move in a safe and orderly fashion in designated areas.”

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Remember: not all students are thinking about you and your car as they leave a school bus. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

When school is out, a child’s not always thinking about cars on the road so obey the school bus lawa. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Children can be so excited when they jump off the school bus that they forget to watch for cars so motorists must watch for them. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

School bus safety is the name of the game as RCMP, school district officials, and children demonstrate this week. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Motorists are asked to remember that when a child leaves a school bus, his mind may not be on nearby cars. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Motorists must stop when the red lights on the school bus are flashing. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

RCMP media relations officer Pam Bolton said it’s really worthwhile during School Bus Safety Week to remind motorists of the rules about passing school buses. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

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