Think of Us on the Bus returns

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Third annual campaign kicks off with encouraging stats showing fewer 'fly-bys' last year

Palliser Regional Schools launches its third annual Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign this week with statistics showing the public awareness and enforcement effort is making a dent in the number of incidents of motorists passing buses that have stopped or are stopping for students.

In the 2013-14 school year, Palliser drivers reported 56 incidents of so-called “fly-bys,” vehicles passing buses that have their red lights flashing. That’s 21 fewer incidents reported in 2012-13, the first year of the safety campaign — a reduction of 27 per cent.

Reports from Palliser bus drivers show incidents rise at predictable times after any school breaks, especially when school starts in September and after the Christmas break in January. June also sees a rise in incidents.

Incidents last year were being reported by bus drivers at a rate of roughly one every four school days.

“The data we’ve collected is encouraging,” said Palliser Superintendent Kevin Gietz. “With the public’s help, we can reduce these incidents even more. Drivers can save themselves the possibility of hefty tickets, and ensure our students and drivers get to and from school safely.”

The Think of Us on the Bus campaign includes a public awareness campaign in print, on radio and on the division’s website and social media; safety assemblies at Palliser’s elementary and middle schools to talk about safety and lead students through a bus rear-door evacuation drill; and ongoing partnership with enforcement partners to heighten enforcement in problem areas. The campaign has the support of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Alberta Sheriffs, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and the Office of Traffic Safety.

Failing to stop for a bus that has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended can carry a $402 fine and six demerit points. When a bus has its amber lights flashing and is preparing to stop, drivers are to use caution. Failure to do so can result in a fine of $345.

Last year, Palliser introduced a new safety tool, as several buses were equipped with cameras that can capture still and video images of what’s occurring inside or outside the bus. This year, additional camera units will be added to the fleet.

Palliser Transportation Services Supervisor David Shaw says the camera systems enhance the culture of accountability for bus drivers and other motorists.

“The fines are so hefty, they will spark a change in driver behaviour,” Shaw said. “When an infraction occurs, we share the information with our enforcement partners who have done an outstanding job of following up with the motorists. It means the world to our drivers to have that positive working relationship with law enforcement to promote safety for our students.”