It’s a simple rule for drivers: red lights mean stop, be it the solid red of an intersection signal, or the flashing reds on a school bus.
Over the past couple of months, School District 83 employees have seen a concerning trend involving drivers not stopping, but instead passing school buses when their red lights are flashing – indicating students are being let on or off the bus.
“In September, we had 29 motorists go through our red flashing lights,” said SD83 transportation manager Andrea Kathrein. “That number went up to 34 in October, with only 20 operating days, so that’s a lot of motorists going through red lights.”
Areas of particular concern include Foothill Road, Notch Hill Road and in Blind Bay and Eagle Bay.
“I’m not sure if (drivers) realize when our red lights are flashing… it means there are children around the outside of the bus, so please stop until it’s loaded, or they’re safely off the roadway and on their way home.”
In a recent incident, School District 83 bus driver Leanne Blurton said she was dropping kids off, the bus’ red lights were flashing and its stop signs were out, and a driver went speeding past.
“The kids were unloading off the bus and I heard a loud acceleration come out from behind… I looked out my window and a truck floored it, intentionally went around me, passed me and just sped off really quickly,” said Blurton. “I was able to catch the licence plate number and report them, and I’m hoping they got a fine.
“Because, hopefully, if they get a fine, they’ll tell their friends and spread the word that we’re serious, this is dangerous, they didn’t know if there were kids crossing or not and it could have been a really bad scenario.”
Under section 149 of the Motor Vehicle Act, drivers traveling in both directions are required 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 failing to stop can be fined $368, and receive three driver penalty points.
“More importantly, it isn’t the fine, it’s making sure our children are safe when they’re going to and from their school,” commented Staff Sgt. Scott West with the Salmon Arm RCMP.
Of the school district’s 36 buses, 21 are equipped with cameras to catch “red-light runners.” Camera footage can be submitted with the bus driver’s report to be forwarded to the RCMP.
“The RCMP… have been super helpful in supporting us,” said Kathrein.