David Shaw

Transportation Services Supervisor David Shaw points to the two exterior cameras on one of Palliser's buses. Several more buses will be equipped with the recording equipment this year.

Camera gear on buses helping to create culture of accountability

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As Palliser Regional Schools' Think of Us on the Bus safety campaign enters its third year, Transportation Services Supervisor David Shaw sees the effort making gains toward safer student transportation.

In the first year, Shaw was alarmed to find Palliser bus drivers reported 77 incidents that could have put them and their precious cargo — our students — at risk. That’s roughly one incident every three days. It was a shock because in preparation for the campaign, the RCMP found very few incidents involving school buses were reported or tracked by police.

In 2012-2013, 70 of the 77 incidents reported by Palliser drivers involved motorists passing a bus stopped with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended. This infraction carries a potential $402 fine and six demerit points.

In 2013-2014, there were 27 per cent fewer incidents reported by Palliser drivers. All 56 incidents were red light “fly-bys.”

The decline in reports is encouraging and could be the result of heightened public awareness, high profile enforcement along routes where incidents occur frequently, and word travelling that tickets are being issued to offenders.

The enforcement effort has been helped along by the addition of camera gear to several of Palliser’s school buses. This year, a dozen recording systems will be deployed across Lethbridge County and Vulcan County.

High quality video and still images along with key information about the bus speed and location can be captured and shared with Palliser’s Think of Us on the Bus partners in law enforcement: the RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.

More than 20 tickets were issued last year on the strength of the photographic evidence. A few additional tickets were issued based on licence plate and vehicle information bus drivers documented the old-fashioned way — with pen and paper.

Shaw says one of the great benefits of the Think of Us on the Bus campaign has been a deepening of relationships with law enforcement. Sheriffs, RCMP and Commercial Vehicle Officers met with bus drivers, rode on Palliser buses and stepped up enforcement when drivers reported a spate of incidents in a particular area. The resulting message was clear. Law enforcement had the bus drivers' backs.

Think of Us on the Bus is a multi-pronged campaign that includes public awareness efforts, safety assemblies for Palliser elementary and middle school students and ongoing communication with enforcement agencies.

Motorists who encounter a school bus with flashing amber lights should proceed with caution knowing the bus is preparing to stop for loading or unloading students. Flashing reds require traffic stop in both directions, except on a divided highway. In that scenario, only traffic travelling the same direction as the school bus must stop.