Stop Safe coordinator: BC needs to increase fines for school bus stop sign infractions

By on February 3, 2016
File photo

File photo

FORT ST. JOHN – Here’s a sobering fact: last year, between April and June, school buses ran for 50 days and reported 51 driving infractions. This means that bus drivers are seeing more than one vehicle drive through the bus’s stop sign more than once per day.

“Driving through through the flashing red lights of a school bus is illegal. It’s not an option,” said Cindy Dettling, Safe Stop coordinater and bus driver.

This year, between Sept. 4 to Jan. 25 there were 72 driving infractions. The buses only ran for 70 days. Dettling said the problem is nationwide and with averaging over one infraction a day, she is worried someone will be hurt. To combat the rising number of incidents, the coordinator said she started in he summer to write letters to the premier, the Minister of Transportation, Minister of Education, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), Minister of Justice along with all of the school boards in the province to try and have the fines raised from $167 and three demerit points to $368 and six points.

“The school boards (including School District 60), the cities across the province [are] all working together to try to get this done,” she said.

The problem has been steadily increasing over the years and it isn’t just happening in B.C. and bus drivers are taking matters into their own hands. Some parking diagonally on streets to block traffic or yelling at drivers as they pass through the red lights.

“Our whole mandate, I suppose, is to educate the motoring public. Slow down when you see the flashing yellow lights  on the school bus, stop when you see the flashing reds,” she said.

Part of the problem, according to the coordinator, is that the fines are too low so drivers don’t take their fines seriously. In comparison with other provinces, BC’s fines are one of the lowest in the country. In Ontario, the first offence ranges from $400-2,000 and six demerits.If convicted with a second offence, the fines jump up to $1,000-$4,000, six demerits and six months in jail. In Manitoba, fines range upwards of $700 plus demerits.

“I don’t know what magic formula there is to stop this, I believe that part of it is raiding the fines, $167 is nothing to anybody. They don’t even think about it and three points on their licence but if we can get it raised…now do that twice and get caught doing it. You’ll lose your licence,” said Detting.

Maybe then, they will pay attention, she added.

According to the coordinator, she isn’t sure why the infraction numbers are so high but she said that it may either be because of distracted driving or for the the simple matter that the drivers don’t seem to care about being ticketed.

“I hate to say that but I have had people come up behind my bus, stop and pull out and go pass me, red lights flashing, ” she said.

For her part, she, along with other bus drivers have done their best to educate the children when getting on or off of the bus, she has “laid on the horn,” anything to get the motorists attention.

Dettling explained that most of the infractions occur from oncoming traffic but she said, regardless of the which way the vehicle is coming from, the outcome is the same. She explained that one of the issue she is facing with drivers, is that most assume children always load the bus from the passenger side of the bus.

“Some children walk across the highway to get to the bus…to get to the door of the bus,” Dettling said, noting that she has gotten into arguments with some about driveways as well. She said people assume that just because there aren’t any driveways that they are free to pass. The bus driver explained that this kind of thinking has to be changed.

“You don’t need a driveway to have something happen. Little kids are little kids. They’re unpredictable. We try our very best to educate them and tell them to watch, step out straight into the driveway and if we blow the horn, they’re supposed to stop where they are,” she said.

“Little kids get excited…we’re adults, we’re driving. I think it’s on us to keep the kids safe, the onus should’t be on kindergarten children to keep themselves safe.”

Julia Lovett

reporter@northeastnews.ca  

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