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Sep 11, 2017

Partners boost bus safety campaign

Veteran Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officer, Jeff Wojszel.

Veteran Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officer, Jeff Wojszel.

David Shaw, Palliser Regional Schools Transportation Services Supervisor, calls them “friends” without batting an eye. It’s safe to say not all of his bus drivers would have shared those same, warm feelings for Alberta Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officers, even a half-dozen years ago.

There’s been a greater realization, however, that everyone has the same goal in mind – the safety of Palliser students – since the Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign began in 2012-2013 school year.

Previously the sight of a CVE vehicle in the rear-view mirror was equated with wasted time, as drivers begrudgingly submitted their ride for the safety inspection to come. Now Shaw will get a radio message from drivers on busier stretches of road of a different tone.

“As soon as she turns on (Secondary Highway) 845 and sees the CVE truck pull up behind her, she’s on the radio: ‘I’ve got someone following me today,’ ” he recalls of a certain bus driver. “And she’s happy that somebody is following. She’s hoping nobody flies by our bus. But she knows if somebody does, they’ll get picked up.”

The safety campaign was designed to highlight the precious cargo school buses carry to and from school each day. Although other law enforcement agencies partnered with Palliser from the start, CVE has shouldered most of the load the last several years.

Jeff Wojszel, a veteran enforcement officer of 17 years, believes that affiliation has led to stronger bonds with Palliser bus drivers than perhaps with their counterparts in other school divisions. He hopes that spills over to public perception of the CVE as well.

“Especially with us and the farming community, what we find is lot of parents have gotten a ticket for an overload from us or a county member, so (the children) hear the negative about us,” says Wojszel. “It allows us to show that it’s not just about writing Dad or an uncle that is hauling grain or hay bales a ticket. It’s about everything else that keeps them safe, and that we are human, too.”

It shouldn’t be lost that a CVE officer, available to ticket a motorist passing a school bus stopped with red lights flashing and stop arm extended, might still pull over that Palliser bus for a safety inspections.

“We welcome that. It’s not an issue with us,” says Shaw.

Laws require school buses to undergo a full inspection twice a year, but he points out Palliser vehicles are scrutinized much more frequently when in the shop for regular maintenance work. Drivers must also do a full walk-around their bus each day to ensure everything is in proper working order.

Among the equipment installed on a growing number of Palliser buses are video cameras, and CVE has been more than willing to use footage in court of drivers caught doing a fly-by – failing to stop for a school bus stopped with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended.

Wojszel believes there’s a greater deterrence factor when he’s able to pull over an offending motorist and explain at the time why they are getting a ticket.

“If the ticket is mailed to them three weeks later, it’s more about they’re mad they’re about to lose $543 as opposed to the side of road where we can say ‘look that bus is full of kids. That could have been your kid walking off the bus,’ ” he says, before quickly adding they’re appreciative of video footage Palliser provides them since CVE officers can’t be everywhere.

While everyone involved believes in the cause, there is end in sight for enforcement and promotional efforts. Despite everything these officers do, there are some who aren’t getting the message.

“There seems to be more people worried about getting from point A to point B, then to slow down for those two seconds, or stop for however long it takes,” says Wojszel, adding he sees the same in the number of vehicles failing to slow to 60 km-h when passing emergency vehicles stopped alongside the road.

He wants to make it clear, however, that he and his fellow CVE officers will be stepping up their enforcement efforts for the beginning of the school year when it comes to fly-bys and bus inspections.

“We’ll be around,” promises Wojszel.

For more information on the Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign, go to the Palliser Regional Schools website at https://www.pallisersd.ab.ca/bus-safety

 

 

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