SD72 hears back from transportation minister

It may not have been exactly the response they were looking for, nor from the ministry they’d really have preferred to hear from, but the Board of Education of School District 72 has actually received a letter back from Victoria addressing one of their questions or concerns.

“As a board, we have written several letters to ministries,” board chair Susan Wilson said at last week’s public meeting, “and this is the first one we actually got a response to.”

The response, however, wasn’t from any of their numerous letters to the Ministry of Education, but instead from Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone in regards to the district’s letter of support for increasing the fine for failing to stop for a school bus.

The letter from SD72 was to support the Safe Stop Program — created within School District 60 (Peace River North) — in its request to increase the fine for failure to stop for a school bus from its current $167 and three points to the equivalent of driving without due care, which has an associated fine of $368 and six points.

“The safety of all road users is the ministry’s highest priority, and I appreciate your concerns for the safety of children during the loading and unloading of school busses at the roadside,” the letter from Minister Stone reads.

The letter also apologizes for “the lateness of this reply,” as it is dated March 8, 2016, in response to the board’s letter dated Oct. 6, 2015.

The letter goes on to say the ministry has “reviewed the fines for similar infractions in other Canadian jurisdictions,” and recognizes that B.C.’s fines are “relatively low in comparison. As such, I have directed ministry staff to raise the topic of the level of the penalty with the BC Association of Chiefs of Police to obtain their feedback as to how a change in the fine amount would impact their enforcement practices.”

The letter also says the district should notify its local police force of any areas this issue has been identified as being problematic so police can ramp up their enforcement, as well as a suggestion to request signage from the ministry or the local municipality to advise motorists not to pass school busses when lights are flashing.

“It’s a form letter,” Wilson admitted, “but it’s interesting in that we did get a response. And who knows? Perhaps since there were a large number of districts who supported the initiative, there may be some further action on it.”