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

North Okanagan-Shuswap school district sees drivers passing buses illegally

Cameras on school buses will help with enforcement efforts

School District #83 staff say an alarming number of vehicles in the Shuswap are passing school buses as they stop to pick up or drop off students.

The school district reports that in a 15 day period at the start of the school year, 25 or more vehicles passed school buses while their red lights were flashing.

The district’s transportation manager, Andrea Kathrein, called these incidents very scary as the flashing red lights mean students are loading or unloading from the school bus.

“Drivers passing the buses during this time are putting our children at risk,” Kathrein said. “Motorists should not need to be reminded to obey the law, but every day drivers are ‘running’ school bus red flashing lights.”

The law in question is section 149 of B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, which requires drivers traveling in both directions to stop when buses are displaying a signal that they are receiving or discharging school children until the bus starts moving again, or the bus driver signals that it is safe for motorists to proceed. Drivers can be fined $368, along with three driver penalty points, for failing to stop.

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Kathrein said the number of red light runners observed by the district has increased. Only nine incidents of school buses being passed illegally were reported over an 18 day period before COVID-19 shut schools down in the spring.

The district wants to remind drivers of their responsibility around school buses. They have asked members of the community to share social media posts circulating with information on the school bus safety, and keep an eye out for notices posted on community bulletin boards.

For the drivers who don’t get the message, the school district and local RCMP detachment are employing a new enforcement tool. Some SD#83 buses are now fitted with cameras which can catch drivers passing school buses illegally in the act. Speaking on behalf of the Salmon Arm RCMP detachment, Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said they are very supportive of the cameras on the buses and officers routinely follow up when school officials report alleged violations.

“Often times police issue the driver or registered owner of the vehicle involved with a violation ticket, should sufficient evidence exist to support a charge,” O’Donaghey said.

“Video evidence is ideal when investigating these matters.”

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