Veronica Matheson

Veronica Matheson, a veteran bus driver in Palliser Regional Schools, reminds drivers that the stop sign on a bus works exactly the same as a stop sign on the road. Drivers need to stop when they see it.

Bus driver says rules are simple: Stop means stop

To listen to Veronica Matheson's 30-second safety messages for approaching a school bus with its lights flashing, download.

Stop means stop

Flashing yellow lights

Flashing red lights

In 22 years of driving school bus in Vulcan County, Veronica Matheson has enjoyed quiet mornings when hers is the only vehicle on a rural road.

But there are other times when she’s come too close to potentially fatal consequences of drivers either not knowing rules of the road or not paying attention.

In one instance, a driver passed her bus despite the solid line, a hill blocking visibility ahead and another car coming toward them.

Both the approaching car and the bus had to slam on their brakes. Fortunately, Matheson didn’t have any students on board, and she alone experienced the unnerving swaying and swerving as the bus abruptly dropped speed to avoid a collision.

She remembers seeing the look of shock on the faces of the two girls in the oncoming vehicle, as they too braked and swerved out of the passing car’s way.

Matheson followed the car and eventually confronted the young driver about what he’d done.

The teen admitted he was just learning to drive, and he’d passed unsafely on the advice of his grandmother, his lone passenger.

“I told him, ‘You could have killed yourself, your grandma and the two girls in the car,’ “ Matheson says. “ ‘You could have killed all of us.’”

It was a harsh lesson, and Matheson suspects he won’t repeat the mistake.

In another incident, a car coming toward the school bus passed it, despite its flashing red lights and stop sign. Matheson recognized the driver, and she made a point of contacting the woman to discuss the incident.

The driver admitting being unaware that the bus’s flashing lights and stop sign mean stop for vehicles travelling in both directions.

“Stop means stop,” Matheson says. “Even if you can see the kids are getting on the bus on the other side of the road, you still have to stop. That driver doesn’t know if a piece of paper will fly out of a backpack and the kid will run across the road after it. You can’t foresee what’s going to happen.”

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. Passing a bus with its red lights flashing could result in a $402 fine and six demerit points.

The speed limit for buses is 90 km/h on Alberta highways.

“Our No. 1 concern is the kids,” Matheson says. “It could be your granddaughter or grandson on that bus, or your friend’s kid. I treat these kids like they are my own. There is no more precious cargo.”

Originally published in August 2012