School buses deserve your attention
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, May 27th 2016
The British Columbia government has increased the fine for illegally passing a school bus to $368 from $167.
This act alone has brought a greater attention to the very real danger faced by school-age kids on a daily basis.
This danger is much greater in densely populated urban areas of our province.
To many, this does not seem logical — given much higher speed limits in rural areas — but it is true.
In smaller communities all over B.C., it is unforgivable for a driver to pass a stopped school bus displaying red flashing lights School-bus drivers are instructed to report the offence immediately to the police.
There is tremendous social pressure to abide by the law around school buses by parents, and this peer pressure is key in drastically reducing the offence in small towns.
Provincial law states that all drivers in both directions must come to a complete stop when a school bus has stopped at the side of the road, to allow students to board or exit the bus, and has the red alternating lights flashing.
A recognizable stop sign might also protrude from the bus drivers side window.
Approaching vehicular traffic on the oncoming side of the road does not have to stop if the oncoming lane is separated by a physical median.
(Broadly painted yellow pavement lines separating lanes of oncoming traffic do not count as medians.)
Drivers are not permitted to proceed until the red flashing lights of the bus have been turned off and it is safe to do so.
Many drivers in urban areas do not know the rule of behaviour when encountering a school bus.
Bus drivers will most often use the amber flashing lights as a cautionary message while slowing, in order to draw attention to their bus, prior to activating the red flashing lights that are very prominently displayed at the back of every school bus.
Drivers in large municipalities are more likely to think they are somewhat protected by relative anonymity if they violate the full-stop obligation when approaching a school bus. This is not true.
A bus driver’s report will most definitely result in a traffic ticket being issued, upon the filing of a report.
Doubling the fine for such dangerous behaviour behind the wheel has simply raised the awareness of the offence.
Some drivers mistakenly believe they do not have to stop if they are on the other side of the road approaching the bus.
Most drivers understand they must stop if approaching the bus from behind, on the same side of the road.
The offence still carries a three-demerit—point penalty.
But let’s forget about the fines and penalty points for the time being.
They are a deterrent only.
Think for a moment what the ramifications would be if you ever hit a kid crossing the street under the supposed protection of the flashing stop lights and protruding stop sign of a stopped school bus.