Shelley West

Bus driver Shelley West holds a portrait of daughter Chelsey Robinson, a member of the RCMP who was killed in a motor vehicle collision in 2010.

Bus driver has lived through parent's worst nightmare

Download to listen to Shelley West's story in 30 seconds.

Shelley West is a 25-year school bus driver with an accident-free record, but there was a time this spring when she thought about hanging up the keys.

In the worst of three incidents in a two-week span, West watched helplessly as a driver came whisper close to striking a little boy who had just exited the bus and was about to walk home.

Too many times, West has had to keep students in the bus because she can see an approaching driver has no intention of stopping.

This time, the driver coming toward West’s bus on a Picture Butte-area highway had slowed. West opened the door to let the boy and his sister out, then she watched helplessly as the vehicle mysteriously sped up toward the kindergarten-aged child about to cross the road.

“The only thing that saved him was he realized his sister wasn’t behind him,” West says. “She was just a little slow getting her backpack and that saved him.”

For West, watching helplessly from inside the bus, those few seconds seemed to play out in slow motion.

“My heart was in my throat,” she recalls. “It was just a sick feeling. I’ve lost a child so I know what it’s like.”

West’s daughter Chelsey Robinson, a member of the RCMP, was killed in a motor vehicle collision in June 2010 while pursuing a suspected drunk driver.

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” she says.

“These are my kids while they’re on my bus,” she says. “I would want someone else to look after my kids that way.”

The threat of steep fines and demerit points for passing buses stopped with their red lights flashing isn’t enough, it seems, to stop reckless and potentially deadly behaviour.

Drivers approaching from the front or behind a school bus with its red lights on and stop arm extended must stop and stay stopped until the lights stop flashing and the stop sign is retracted. Flashing yellow lights on the bus serve as a warning that the bus will be stopping soon. Drivers should proceed with caution, and generally that means stopping, not passing, the bus.

Whether it’s inattention, the hectic pace of life, or ignorance of the law, West shakes her head at the senselessness of the loss of life and hurt those split seconds can cause.

“Drivers have to realize we’re carrying pretty precious cargo,” West says. “If I could say something to that driver, I would say ‘Do you have children and would you like to see their life end that way?’ ”

Originally published in August 2012