One of the buses equipped with cameras. Max Winkelman photo.

Residents warned about hefty fines for passing school buses

Some buses now equipped with cameras

Some drivers may be surprised when they get a hefty fine after they thought they had gotten away with passing a school bus with its warning lights and stop signs activated.

“Some of our buses now have the ability to take video footage outside the bus and so we’re able to see when people go through our load lights at bus stops,” says Randy Cobb, assistant manager of facilities and transportation with the school district.

Staff Sgt. Svend Nielsen described one such an incident late last year.

“We had a report from a school bus driver on Dec. 5, 2018 at 8 a.m. of a vehicle passing a school bus with its warning lights and stop signs activated on a regular route along Horse Lake Road at Fallsway Road. Basically, the bus was doing a routine stop picking up students on their way to school heading eastbound on Horse Lake Road, when a dark blue older model Pontiac heading westbound slowed down as if to stop, then continued through at an accelerated speed nearly colliding with another vehicle which appeared to pull out behind the bus as well, causing the driver of the Pontiac to make an evasive manoeuver to avoid a collision.”

Children were loading and parents were standing at Fallsway Road during the incident, according to Nielsen.

“The vehicle was identified through the use of the new cameras placed on one of five new buses in our area. The cameras are HD quality and offer high-resolution video and images from their system. It was fairly easy and straightforward to identify the vehicle and licence plate.”

Nielsen issued a $368 fine under Section 149 of the Motor Vehicle Act (Fail to Stop for School Bus) to the registered owner about two weeks later as a result.

The first such camera was added a couple of years ago now, according to Cobb.

“There is camera companies that have that technology now. So we’re taking advantage of it.”

Cobb suspects that at least they don’t get repeats because it is a “substantial fine.”

The passing of loading or unloading school buses is a regular issue, according to Cobb.

“It’s fairly constant in our district. It’s probably weekly.”

There haven’t been any incidents involving students recently, according to Cobb.

“There have been what I would say maybe close calls where students are already off the bus trying to cross when they go through but not lately anyways that someone has been nearly hit. It’s scary when it happens for everybody.”

The cameras are recording all the time, says Cobb. Then when there’s an incident the driver can let them know and they’ll look up the footage.

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