The board of trustees of School District 72 (SD72) is backing a proposal to increase the penalty for drivers who fail to stop for school busses with lights flashing.
At a recent meeting of the board, Chairperson Susan Wilson requested the board’s permission to write a letter in support of the proposed fee increase being put forward by the Peace River Regional District (PRRD). The PRRD introduced a “Safe Stop” program this past April, “to remind the motoring public that driving through the flashing red lights of a school bus is both dangerous and illegal.”
Between April 15 and June 25, the Transportation Department of School District 60 (Peace River North), recorded every instance of a motorist passing a bus while its lights were flashing, and found “more than one infraction per day.”
“Drivers in British Columbia do not take this issue seriously,” reads the letter from the PRRD, “and it’s just a matter of time before another child is injured or killed.”
The letter cites the fine for a “Fail to stop for a school bus” infraction in B.C. is only $167 and three points added to a license, while in Alberta, the fine is $400. Ontario, the letter says, “has an absolute Zero Tolerance” policy for this offence, and fines there range from $400 to $2,000.
“It seems like this is something that is very easy to justify and support,” Wilson told the board. “Driving without due care has a fine attached of $368 and six points, but the current fine for failing to stop for a school bus…is about half of that.”
According to Kevin Patrick, secretary-treasurer of SD72, drivers in our district use what is called a “Baltimore Stop,” in most drop-off and pick-up locations, so the issue isn’t as severe here as it might be in more rural areas.
A “Baltimore Stop” is when the bus pulls all the way over to the curb – or even off the road entirely – “so that there is at least a bus-width between the children and the traffic,” Patrick says.
The letter of support that is being drafted, Patrick says, is less because it’s also a problem here, and more because, “we’re always happy to lend support and stand behind other districts that are promoting things like student safety, and we’re happy to help them build awareness of the issue, as well.”
Cindy Dettling, the Safe Stop program coordinator in the PRRD, says the response to their proposal has been a positive one, with at least six school districts already pledging support, adding she has, “encountered absolutely no opposition to this proposal.”
The district’s letter, once drafted, will be sent to Premier Christy Clark, Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton, Minister of Transportation Todd Stone, the superintendent of motor vehicles, Minister of Education Mike Bernier and MLA for Peace River North Pat Pimm.