Help us prevent new year 'fly-bys'

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Corporate News

January is a peak time for people passing school buses stopped with red lights flashing

Experience documented by Palliser Regional Schools school bus drivers since 2012-2013 show that January is one of the worst times of the year for so-called “fly-bys,” when motorists pass school buses stopped with their red lights flashing and stop arm extended to load or unload students.
Palliser Transportation Services Supervisor David Shaw is hoping public awareness and caution by motorists this year will help break this new year trend.
According to reports by Palliser drivers, there were 12 fly-bys in January 2013 and nine in January 2014. The worst month for fly-bys, based on more than two years of reporting, is September, when there were 15 in September 2012, nine in September 2013 and 12 in September 2014.
Palliser adopted a new system of documenting incidents involving the division’s school buses in September 2012, as part of its Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign, developed in partnership with RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and the Office of Traffic Safety. The campaign involves bus drivers, law enforcement, student safety assemblies and a public awareness campaign through the first few weeks of the school year. The campaign was initiated as a result of a spate of incidents in January 2012, when one Palliser student was nearly struck by a truck as it sped past her school bus on a clear morning days after the Christmas break.
In 2013-2014, Palliser unveiled a new tool to ensure safety on and around buses, with the introduction of video equipment on select buses that capture what’s occurring inside and outside the bus. When a fly-by occurs, the driver can press a button to place a marker on the recorded data, giving Shaw opportunity to review the bus location, speed, signal status and high quality images outside the bus in both directions.
Nineteen of 29 incidents reported so far this school year were captured on camera, with images shared with Palliser’s law enforcement partners, resulting in tickets being issued. More than 20 tickets were issued last year on the strength of photographic evidence from the camera system.
Failing to stop for a bus that has its red lights flashing carries a $402 fine and can result in six demerit points.
Shaw says there are at least eight camera-equipped buses on the road daily in Palliser, with another four available for use as needed. The largest number of incidents occur in the rural area around Coaldale and Picture Butte, and the heaviest travelled routes, along Highway 845 and 25, are regularly served by camera-equipped buses. The equipment can be deployed on any route on any given day. There’s only been one reported incident where weather conditions made the licence plate information unreadable on the captured image.
Shaw says he hopes this week’s snowy weather and awareness of the hefty fines will deter drivers from passing buses that are stopped for students.
“We have the ability now to ensure tickets are delivered to more offenders than ever before,” Shaw says. “But we’d rather no one be ticketed and that these incidents just stop occurring. In the second year of the Think of Us on the Bus campaign, we had a 27 per cent decrease in the number of incidents our bus drivers reported. We’d love to see that continue, and reducing the incidents in January will help us toward that goal. Please stop and stay stopped when you see those red lights flashing.”
School buses travelling in municipalities may not use the red lights if prohibited by municipal bylaw. In those cases, motorists should proceed with caution around stopped buses, being aware that students are likely present.
Amber flashing lights on buses indicate the bus is about to stop. Motorists should proceed with caution, passing the bus if it’s safe to do so or preparing to stop.
Palliser Regional Schools is a public school division serving about 6,800 students in Lethbridge County, Vulcan County and the City of Calgary. The division operates about 60 bus routes outside Calgary with the fleet travelling about 1.8 million kilometres a year.