School District #83 wants to bring attention to the importance of stopping for school buses with their red lights flashing, after counting 32 drivers passing stopped buses in January. (File photo)

Drivers illegally passing school buses prompts safety campaign

School District #83 count 32 vehicles passing buses with lights flashing in January

An upswing in drivers illegally passing school buses has prompted School District #83 to launch an awareness campaign.

The school district will focus on the message of ‘we stop – you stop,’ asking drivers not to rush the bus, and to ensure they are not driving distracted. This initiative to raise awareness about safe driving near school buses comes after counting 32 drivers blowing past buses with their flashing lights on in just one month

The decision to track the number of drivers passing buses was in response to a sudden increase in collisions involving buses in the region during the 2017-18 school year. Five school buses in the district were hit by other motorists, with a sixth incident on Jan. 25, 2019.

This upswing comes after years of near-perfect records involving district buses. However, over the past year, local bus drivers have been reporting a rise in vehicles passing school buses when the red lights are flashing, and other near misses involving risky drivers.

Related: Longtime Shuswap school bus driver takes one last ride

Drivers need to be alert and extra cautious when driving around school buses, explains district transportation manager Andrea Kathrein. To help get the message out, the district is running a school bus safety campaign from Feb. 18 to March 1.

“Red flashing lights on a school bus indicate that a child is either arriving or departing from the school bus. Children are often unpredictable and may run out from in front of or behind the bus. We need your help to keep our kids safe,” she says.

Related: Alberta looking into mandatory school bus seat belts

There will also be special coffee cup sleeves at participating restaurants, with to-go mugs at 19 locations throughout the district.

Several companies, including Tim Hortons, Starbucks and A&W, have asked for posters to display and will support the campaign again in October during School Bus Safety Week.

Kathrein added that “red light runner” cameras will become a standard feature on SD83 school buses.

“In September 2018, three of our new buses came equipped with the red light runner cameras, and we are looking into adding them to another dozen of our newer buses,” she says.

Local RCMP detachments are also supporting the district in this campaign in various ways, including riding along on the bus.

Related: B.C. school district installs cameras on school buses to catch illegally passing drivers

The district will also continue to support students and bus drivers through training on acceptable and safe school bus safety procedures and protocol.


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jodi.brak@saobserver.net

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