It appears that for many in the Valley, a $358 fine and a three-point demerit on their driver’s licence is not a deterrent to disregarding school bus stop signs.
School District 79 reported last week that over the course of 18 school days in November, bus drivers have reported a staggering 42 occasions where motorists have paid no attention to school bus stop signs.
That’s an average of at least two a day within the district; which is a totally unacceptable number.
I remember that the rules for drivers around schools buses, and the fact that motorists must NEVER pass a school bus with its stop lights flashing, were highlighted when I took my driver’s test many years ago.
There’s a very good reason for that.
Those schools buses are carrying the most precious things in many people lives, as well as the future of our society.
But the youngsters on board are typically inexperienced and impetuous, and are not fully aware of the dangers that cars and traffic bring.
That’s why the law puts the onus on the motorists, who are supposed to be adults who have passed a number of written and active driving tests to be on the road in the first place, to ensure the safety of the children who take the bus to school every day.
I’ve said it already but it bears repeating for those who just don’t get the message; motorists must NEVER pass a school bus with its stop lights flashing.
The police have even made a children’s rhyme so drivers will have an easier time remembering that simple rule.
Take note of the bus slowing, watch for the lights to flash, and then, “if the lights are flashing, don’t be passing”.
I shuddered last month when I read a story by intrepid reporter Lexi Bainas in which she interviewed school bus driver Carol Combs, who’s been driving for the local district for 15 years, who told her that she had seen some pretty close calls in that time.
“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,” Combs said.
“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars.”
That’s truly frightening and I can only imagine the heartbreak for everyone even distantly involved with any child who is injured or (heaven forbid) killed by some impatient and ignorant driver who felt the laws didn’t apply to them.
Last week, South Cowichan Community Policing announced the organization is donating 11 dashboard cameras for south-end school buses to help combat the disturbing trend of people disregarding school bus rules.
The aim of the cameras is to help provide RCMP with the evidence required to identify and ticket the offending drivers.
As well, late last year, the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP had officers following buses and issuing tickets to those who put students at risk.
Over the course of the project, officers wrote five tickets and one warning for failing to stop for school bus, and that project is in the works again for this year.
It would seem to me that common sense and a desire not to hurt harmless children would be enough of an incentive.
But, unfortunately, it appears the only thing that many people understand are harsh penalties.
If that’s what’s required to protect our children, bring it on.