AMHERST – As much as been done about school bus safety, there are still some who continue to pass school buses that have their red lights flashing.
“It still happens,” Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department said. “I think people are becoming more aware of it and they know they can’t pass a bus with its lights flashing if they’re behind it, but there are some coming the other direction who still don’t know they have to stop as well.”
This is School Bus Safety Week in Nova Scotia and law enforcement agencies – such as the Amherst Police Department and the Cumberland RCMP – are working with their partners in the education system to raise awareness toward things like passing stopped school buses while taking time to reinforce other school safety issues.
Delbert Green, transportation supervisor for the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, said the vast majority of motorists are attentive, but there are some who do things like pass their buses when they are dropping children off or picking them up at schools and from their homes.
“The most dangerous time is when students are getting on or off the bus,” Green said. “It only takes a moment of inattention for a tragedy to happen. What we’re asking is for people to be extra cautious around school zones and when they see buses stopped to pick up or drop off children.”
In Amherst, school such as ARHS, E.B. Chandler and the new West Highlands Elementary School have designated school bus areas, but there is no designated spot at Spring Street Academy.
Amherst Police school liaison officer Const. Michelle Harrison said the school bus safety awareness program has been ongoing for several years and is widely recognized by school bus drivers, parents and other groups with a strong interest in child safety.
“The campaign aims to raise awareness for vehicles illegally passing the school bus while it’s stopped with its red lights flashing,” she said. “The primary goal is to educate the public of the dangers of illegally passing a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing.”
In 2016, there were 1,608 reported incidents of drivers passing stopped buses across the country. Most of the incidents occurred with drivers approaching a stopped bus in the opposite lane. Drivers are required to stop regardless if they are following or approaching a stopped bus with its red lights engaged.
“No appointment, meeting or event is worth putting a young life at risk,” Harrison said.
The fine for breaking the law is $410 and the loss of six driving points.
Officers from the Amherst Police Department and the Cumberland RCMP will be doing focused enforcement of school bus safety during this week while Const. Harrison will be doing ride-alongs.
Both agencies will also be conducting information checkpoints throughout the area.
Safety Services Nova Scotia is hosting a contest asking people to submit a one to three-minute video demonstrating school bus safety and the importance of motorists stopping for red lights on school buses.
The contest closes Nov. 20 and all submissions must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org .