Hergott: Take special care around school buses

Columnnist says drivers need to take extra precautions when youngsters are loading and off-loading from school buses.

Paul Hergott

School bus drivers made the news last month with their complaints about drivers ignoring school bus warning lights.

A little online searching led me to a public posting site that left me gobsmacked.  Here is one of the online postings:  “Huh.  News to me that you were required to stop when oncoming too; thought it was only when overtaking given the painted wording on the bus is ‘Do not pass when signals flashing.’  Anyone able to link me to the applicable sections of the MVA?”

The “s-word” screamed out at me when I read that.  My 11-year-old daughter, ever cautious about using inappropriate words, would have cautioned me:  “You shouldn’t say ‘tupid’ with an ‘s’ Daddy”.

She would be correct, as she so often is.  There’s nothing stupid about ignorance.

I hasten to clarify my use of the word ignorance. I do not intend the negative connotation with which it is sometimes used.  I use the word with the literal meaning “lack of knowledge or information”.

I have a “tip of the iceberg” mentality that leads me to feel certain that the person who contributed that online posting is the tip of an iceberg of ignorance. This column is my little bit of heat contribution to melting the iceberg.

Section 149 of the Motor Vehicle Act dictates: “The driver of a vehicle…on meeting or overtaking a school bus…on or near which a sign or signal is displayed indicating the school bus is receiving or discharging school children, must stop the vehicle before reaching the bus and not proceed until the bus resumes motion or the driver of the bus signals to other drivers that it is safe to proceed.”  I’m happy to provide the link to anyone who e-mails that request.

Get caught breaking that driving law and you’re subject to a $167  ticket and three demerit points on your license.  But you’d have to be “tupid with an s” for that to be a motivation for your driving behaviour.

A collaborative study between the BC Coroners Service and BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit published Nov. 9, 2010, identified risky pedestrian behaviour (observed in 57.6% of fatalities) and lack of active supervision (observed in 33% of the deaths of children under 10) as key factors in child pedestrian fatalities in British Columbia.

These two key factors are present when children are boarding and offloading a school bus: Children will dart across the street to catch their bus and will dart out from the nose or rear of a bus when departing; they are never accompanied by their parents.

Special care must be taken any time children are around.  Absent-minded children will dart out in front of traffic and parents will be distracted.  As motorists, we must anticipate these factors and drive accordingly.

Wouldn’t you know, there is another section of the Motor Vehicle Act that requires extra caution when there are children around.  Section 181 provides the common sense requirement that “…a driver of a vehicle must observe proper precaution on observing a child or apparently confused or incapacitated person on the highway.”

Yes, children are lumped in with confused and incapacitated people, and for good reason. By the way, don’t be distracted by the word “highway.”  That word is extremely broadly defined to include pretty much anywhere a vehicle might pass.

Let’s each of us take extra precautions any time we suspect children might be around.  We need to watch like hawks in residential areas (where the study found 51.5% of child pedestrian fatalities occur), at public transit stops, around schools and playgrounds, in parking lots, and anywhere else children might be lurking.

This column is intended to provide general information about injury claims.  It is not a substitute for retaining a lawyer to provide legal advice specifically pertaining to your case. Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer at Hergott Law in West Kelowna.

paul@hlaw.ca