Since it arrived on the scene early in the 20th century, the school bus has been an intrinsic part of society. The familiar yellow vehicle is a mobile cradle, of sorts, entrusted to ferry our kids to and from school and into the future.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that school bus safety is a paramount concern and that strictly enforced regulations are in place to ensure this. Failure to comply with the rules can result in massive fines and a slew of demerit points.
Drivers need to be familiar with all aspects of school bus safety regulations.
We are familiar with the law requiring motor vehicles to come to a full stop when a bus is parked and is taking on or discharging students. There are specific parts of the law, though, that we might not be so aware of.
For example, drivers travelling on a road without a dividing median must stop for a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing. (If the road does have a median, drivers coming from the opposite direction are not required to stop). The law says to stop at a safe distance to let children get on and off the bus and cross the road.
That is a common sense regulation we all know about. What we might not be aware of, however, is what is legally construed as “a safe distance”. In Ontario, a driver is required to stop no less than 20 metres away when approaching the bus from the rear. Failure to do so can result in a fine of between $400 and $2,000 and six demerit points. On top of that, such an infraction can easily result in a substantial hike in auto insurance premiums.
The first offence for driving past a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing will result in fines between $400 to $2,000 and six demerit points. Each subsequent offence could see fines onwards and upwards of between $1,000 and $4,000 and possible jail time up to six months, according to Volodymyr Menok at Traffic Paralegal Services.
Did you know, an owner of a vehicle can still be charged, even if he or she was not driving the vehicle?
In short, all angles have been covered to make sure safety laws are stringent and effective. On the other hand, infractions of such broad-based rules could have different levels of seriousness. Whether or not someone is motoring past a stopped school bus at 60 km/h or stops his/her vehicle four or five metres within the restraining zone, both situations could result in charges being laid.
If you have been charged and question the severity and/or legitimacy, it is advisable to retain the services of a reputable paralegal firm, such as Traffic Paralegal Services, to represent you in court. Leave it to the professionals. Traffic Paralegal Services has two locations. One in Mississauga, Ontario the other in Caledon East, Ontario.
When witnessing an offence, people are encouraged to report it by calling 911 or *OPP on your mobile device, please remember HANDS FREE ONLY! Complaints can be filed at the police station, where officers will want some typical information. This includes the date and time of the incident and the vehicle’s make, model, colour and license number. They will also like to know if the driver can be identified. This can lead to the driver or owner of the vehicle being charged after the incident had occurred.
As for the bus, police may enquire as to whether it was a “chrome yellow” school bus with the words “School Bus” at both the front and rear of the bus, as well as its size. Was the school bus stopped and were the upper red lights flashing? Were there passengers boarding or leaving the bus and did the vehicle pass the school bus from behind or was it coming toward the bus in the opposite lane? Other details can also help, such as witness accounts or photographs.
While the laws have their role in preventing accidents, parents can play their part by talking about bus safety with their children. Here is a list of suggestions from the Ontario Transportation Ministry.
First of all, be at the bus stop before it arrives. A mad dash across the road to catch the bus can result in tragedy. Stay a safe distance from the road and don’t play in ditches or snow banks.
Stay out of the “danger zone.” If you can touch the bus, you’re too close. Use ten giant steps to take you out of the danger zone, and make sure you and the bus driver can see each other.
When boarding or disembarking the bus, always cross the road in front of the bus, never behind. As well, be aware of your surroundings, look in all directions and wait for the driver to signal before you cross in front of a bus.
Walk at least ten big steps from the front of the bus. When entering or exiting, stay in single file and never push or shove.
Finally, never stop to pick up anything that you may have dropped in the danger zone. Ask an adult or the bus driver to help.
Once you are on the bus, find your seat right away stay seated. Don’t place things in the aisle and do not distract the driver.
As integral a mode of transportation as the school bus is, it is not the only way to get to and from school. For instance, there are times when a boy or girl might opt to ride a bike. Parents should check with the school to make sure your child is allowed to ride their bicycle to school. Some schools do not allow students to ride bicycles to school until they reach a specific grade. Your child must always wear a bicycle helmet. Failure to do so could result in a traffic citation. Furthermore, in the event of an accident, helmets reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent.
Remember that the rules of the road apply to bicycles the same way they apply to motor vehicles. Always stay on the right-hand side of the road and ride in the same direction as traffic. Be sure your child knows and uses all of the appropriate hand signals. Choose the safest route between home and school and practice it with children until they can demonstrate traffic safety awareness. If possible, try to have your child ride with someone else. There is safety in numbers.
In conclusion, based on the excellent and sensible advice given from Traffic Paralegal Services, if we all practice diligence and awareness, our kids will be on their way to school and not to the hospital. Be careful out there.
Written by: Dan Pelton