Motorists continue to fly-by our schools buses

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For the first time since the launch of the Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign in 2012, the number of reported incidents of motorists passing Palliser Regional School buses when stopped for students increased from the year before.

It’s a trend Palliser Transportation Services Supervisor David Shaw hopes will be reversed in 2016-2017.

Unfortunately, on Thursday, just Day 3 of the new school year, a Palliser bus driver had already had a motorist pass her, on a highway when she was stopped to pick up students.

Palliser bus drivers reported 62 “fly-bys” last year, up from 53 in 2014-2015. A spike in incidents in January and May 2016 contributed to the rising total.

Shaw says clear, dry weather in January and summery conditions in May likely contributed to motorists’ inattention to buses stopped with their red lights flashing and stop arms extended. May was especially uncharacteristic with 10 reported fly-bys. In three previous years, there had been, at most, two fly-bys in that month.

Of the 62 fly-bys last year, 20 were captured on camera systems installed on the buses, leading to $544 tickets being issued. Another two were ticketed in person by law enforcement, thanks to the support of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement. In addition to a $544 fine, drivers in those cases received six demerit points.

As more cameras are added to the fold, Shaw says Palliser may see incident reports continue to rise. He says he hopes those hefty fines will help raise awareness and create a deterrent of the safety issue.

This fall marks the fifth annual Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign, a program of ongoing enforcement, awareness and safety education for public and students of Palliser. In 2012-2013, the first year of the campaign, Palliser bus drivers reported 77 fly-bys.

Shaw credits ongoing support from southern Alberta enforcement partners with helping to keep students and bus drivers safe. When a spike of incidents occurs on a route, it’s not unusual for a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement to follow the school bus on its route, giving a reminder to motorists. It’s also common for the officer to follow the bus right back to Palliser’s Transportation Services shop, to conduct a spot inspection of the vehicle and the driver’s logs.

“If we’re going to shine a light on the public, we also shine a light on ourselves,” Shaw says.

When approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing, traffic in both directions must stop until the lights are turned off and the stop arm is retracted. When a school bus has its amber lights flashing, it is warning drivers that a stop is coming. Drivers approaching the bus from both directions should proceed with caution. In some municipalities, including Lethbridge, school buses are prohibited from using their flashing lights. In those cases, drivers should proceed with caution around stopped school buses, watching for students getting on or off.

A fleet of 59 Palliser Regional School buses carries a precious cargo of some 1,800 students. 

For bus families, a free app for Android or iPhones is available offering real-time updates on whether buses are running on time, late or cancelled. Users can favourite the routes of special interest to them to receive push notifications on their mobile devices about any change in bus status.