KC Marten

Coaldale-area bus driver urges motorists to follow rules of the road

COALDALE — In spring 2014, veteran bus driver KC Marten took over one of the highest traffic school bus routes in Palliser Regional Schools, making nine stops on Highway 845 between the Oldman River and the Town of Coaldale. It’s a heavily travelled and populated route.

In just a few months, she reported four incidents of motorists passing her bus while it was stopped with its red lights flashing. In one instance, she honked the horn to alert her student that an oncoming vehicle wasn’t slowing down. The noise from the horn, a signal well known to her passengers, prompted the young boy to leap back into the safety of the bus.

The students all know to watch for her signal that it’s safe to cross the highway. They all know the horn means an approaching vehicle is maintaining speed.

In this case, the driver screeched to a stop, and no one was hurt.

“This time we got lucky,” Marten says. “Next time, you could run into someone.”

She says she does her best to anticipate the actions of her fellow motorists and to give them ample warning using her amber lights that a stop is coming.

Motorists may not realize school buses can legally travel no faster than 90 km/h in Alberta, whether they’re full of students or empty. They’re not travelling slowly to frustrate other traffic. It’s one of many safety measures put in place to protect the precious cargo on board.

Marten says when other motorists ignore the flashing red lights and the stop arm, her first response it to press a button on her dashboard that sets a marker on the bus’s on-board recording system. The Transportation Services Supervisor reviews the recorded information and can share a photo, video and the bus driver’s incident report with police. Just once, thanks to bad weather, the cameras on Marten’s bus couldn’t capture licence plate information. In three other cases, the registered owner of the vehicle that passed her was issued a $402 ticket by police. A dozen Palliser buses will have the recording systems this year.

Marten says the reaction from enforcement is a marked change from even a few years ago. Back then, very few incidents, if any, were reported to law enforcement because bus drivers didn’t believe they’d be acted on.

“If the police don’t know, they can’t check it out,” she says. “Now, we report everything, and they know the hotspots and can respond accordingly.”

Marten says public awareness about school bus safety and ongoing support from law enforcement has made a difference in the number of incidents she witnesses, and that translates into safer transportation for students.

“That’s a good feeling,” she says.