Think of Us on the Bus

Think of Us on the Bus

Palliser School Division, in partnership with the RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs, Alberta Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, and the Office of Traffic Safety, launched a campaign in 2012-2013 to improve school bus safety for our students, our drivers and the motoring public at large.

The inaugural month-long campaign was supported through a nearly $17,000 grant from the Alberta Traffic Safety Fund. For 2013-2014, financial support was provided through a $5,000 grant from the County of Lethbridge. Having seen the positive benefits of the campaign, Palliser committed to continue the program in 2014-2015 with no outside financial assistance.

The campaign is a multi-pronged awareness and enforcement effort called Think of Us on the Bus.

On this website, we invite you to meet some of the people who drive and ride Palliser buses. We also welcome you to test your bus safety knowledge with quick online quizzes.

In addition to a public awareness campaign on radio and in print, Think of Us on the Bus features student assemblies across the division to talk about bus safety as well as ongoing enforcement support from our partners in the RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs and Alberta Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.

In 2012-2013, Palliser bus drivers reported 77 incidents: 70 of motorists passing the bus when the bus was stopped with its red lights flashing and its stop arm extended.

Thank you for the part you play in keeping students safe!

Penalties for unsafely passing school buses hiked May 1, 2015

A hefty ticket for passing a school bus stopped with its red lights flashing just got even heftier.

Effective May 1, 2015, the fine for passing a school bus with its red lights flashing went up to $544, which includes a victims of crime surcharge that's applied to all such violations. The offence can still carry six demerit points. It previously carried a fine of $402.

Also effective May 1, 2015, the penalty for failing to use caution when the school bus's amber lights are flashing has gone up to $465. Previously that ticket was $345. The amber lights indicate the school bus is preparing to stop so students can get on or off.

In some municipalities, school buses may be prohibited from using their flashing red or amber lights. However, in all rural areas and almost all municipalities served by Palliser bus drivers, the red lights are used to warn motorists that students may be crossing. When encountering a bus with flashing red lights, traffic in both directions must stop and stay stopped until the lights stop flashing red. 

Please stop

If your child was on this school bus, would you take the time to stop?

Palliser Regional Schools bus driver Arvid Thompson.

Bus crash ups the ante on safety drills

Don’t try to tell Arvid Thompson that school bus evacuations drills are about as useful as map-reading skills these days.

Lost travellers are more likely to look up Google Maps and the like, but the veteran driver with Palliser Regional Schools knows first-hand just how crucial bus safety exercises are.

In a 20-year span of driving school bus, Thompson never had occasion to put required safety drills into play. That all changed in a split second one day last October while taking students home after school in Vulcan.

Although he always made sure his students knew what to do in the event of a bus crash, Thompson admits he never imagined he’d be at the wheel in just such a situation. His bus was clipped by a vehicle attempting to pass it on a slippery stretch of highway near Milo, sending it into the ditch.

“Technically that should never have happened,” says Thompson, who was driving to the road conditions. “We can do everything perfectly correct, but there’s getting to be more careless drivers on the road every year. You have to drive for yourself and drive for the other person and, hopefully, you’re lucky and nobody does what they did to us.”

With the reality of that crash in mind, Palliser Regional Schools is stepping up its mock bus evacuations this school year to ensure everyone knows the proper procedures and realizes the importance of such exercises.

Thompson says he was aware of a vehicle pulling up behind the bus and saw it start to pass, but he was looking at the road ahead when metal hit metal.

“Whenever it happened, it happened so terribly fast that you didn’t really have an opportunity to do much of anything,” he says.

Thompson’s best efforts weren’t enough to keep the bus and its cargo of eight students from hitting the ditch backwards before rolling over one and a quarter times. Those past mock bus evacuations, however, appear to have paid off.

“Nobody really got panicky,” he says, adding older students led the younger ones out through the back exit since the bus was resting on its passenger side.

A student complaining of neck pain remained inside until medical help arrived. Fortunately bumps, scrapes and bruises proved the worst of the injuries.

“It went better than what you could have ever dreamed it would,” says Thompson. “We were extremely lucky no one was seriously hurt.”

Dave Shaw, Palliser’s Transportation Services Supervisor, says the question is whether passengers and drivers on all 59 bus routes are as well prepared.

“It just seemed like an opportunity to drive the point home,” he says. “We’ve got that fresh incident in our mind as a collective, and we can stress the importance not only to our drivers, but to the students, that stuff happens and we have to be ready. So let’s make sure that we’re taking this seriously.”

By law, school divisions must hold mock bus evacuations twice a year. The usual procedure is to bring two or three buses to a particular school, provide students with a safety talk and then have them all filter through the vehicles to practice exiting under different scenarios.

This year will feature specific evacuation days at each school, with all the buses and bus drivers that serve it involved in the exercise. All the students, whether they are regular riders or only take the bus for field trips or sporting events, will be involved.

Shaw will be there each time to provide feedback and follow up with extra training – for passengers or drivers – as required. While he’s quick to praise Thompson and his students for their actions that day, he knows everyone involved got away lucky.

“This is reality. It happened. It’s not meant to scare anybody, but it’s meant to make sure they understand that this could happen at any time,” he says.

Meet the people who are on our buses and learn more about the rules of the road

Enforcement partners boost bus safety campaign

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement supports Palliser Regional Schools' efforts to deliver our students to and from school each day safely through our Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign.

Number of fly-bys rise again in 2016-2017

For the second straight year, Palliser bus drivers reported more incidents of motorists illegally passing their school buses, despite the hefty fines and risk to student safety. A rising number of camera systems on Palliser buses may mean more are incidents are being reported and enforced.

Amanda Otway

In October 2013, a vehicle struck the rear, driver-side corner of the school bus being driven by Amanda Otway. No one on the bus was injured, but a passenger on the school bus died of her injuries. While it was a tragedy for a southern Alberta family, it could have been much worse.

Quiz for drivers

Take our 10-question online quiz and put your school bus savvy to the test!

Just for kids!

Here's a quick quiz about what you should do to stay safe while getting on, getting off or riding the school bus.

Number of fly-bys rise in 2015-2016

For the first time since the launch of Palliser's Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign, the number of fly-bys reported by our school bus drivers rose year-over-year. It's a trend we're hoping will stop in the coming year.

Reports of incidents fall for second year

For a second straight year, bus drivers in Palliser Regional Schools reported fewer incidents of motorists passing buses stopped with their red lights flashing.In 2014-2015, Palliser drivers reported 53 incidents, three fewer than in the previous year, and a whopping 24 fewer than in 2012-2013, when the division started its Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign.

Fewer incidents in 2013-14

The third annual Think of Us on the Bus campaign kicked off on a high note. Palliser drivers reported 27% fewer "fly-by" incidents in 2013-14 than in 2012-13, when the bus safety campaign began. Two years of data also show when the problems are most likely to occur.

KC Marten

A Palliser bus driver faces one of the busiest highways in Palliser, the 845 north of Coaldale.

David Shaw

Palliser's Transportation Services Supervisor reflects on alarming data collected in 2012-2013, the high number of buses being passed when stopped with their red lights flashing, and introduces a new tool to help identify drivers who ignore the rules of the road.

Fernanda Eisler

A Palliser bus driver's precious cargo includes her own kids. For their sake and the sake of all aboard, she urges motorists to give school buses space. Buses are longer than most vehicles, heavy and slow to speed up or slow down.

Veronica Matheson

A veteran bus driver from the Vulcan area explains the rules of the road for drivers approaching school buses that have their amber or red lights flashing.

Taylor Moreau

Meet a southern Alberta mom who had to pull her daughter to safety out of the path of a vehicle as it sped past a school bus stopped with its red lights flashing.

Justice Parrott

A Palliser high school student rides the bus every day and contributed a winning idea to the bus safety campaign.

Shelley West

Shelley West has a quarter-century of experience as a bus driver. She also knows the pain of losing a child to a motor vehicle collision and wants to spare other parents that same heartbreak.

David Warner and Jayne Block

Meet the Alberta Sheriff and the Palliser bus driver on whose bus he travelled during the enforcement blitz on a day a tractor-trailer unit ignored the bus's flashing ambers and passed the flashing reds.

Safety campaign leads to enforcement action

During the 2012 Think of Us on the Bus campaign, 11 traffic violations were cited around Palliser school buses. Not all infactions were related to vehicles passing buses stopped with their red lights flashing. 


A 3-minute refresher on school bus safety for kids

Transportation Supervisor David Shaw leads you through a three-minute video recapping the key safety and bus etiquette messages shared with Palliser students.