Drivers continue to put lives in danger when nearing school buses. Above, 417 Bus Line owner Gilles Laplante in front of one of his buses.
Drivers continue to put lives in danger when nearing school buses. Above, 417 Bus Line owner Gilles Laplante in front of one of his buses.

School buses : lives continue to be endangered 

Olivier Frégeau
Despite awareness of the rules surrounding school buses, drivers continue to put children's lives at risk.

"Not only is it very costly in terms of demerit points and fines to disobey school bus traffic signs, but in an even more serious context, if someone hits a child and ends his life, it will be on their conscience for the rest of their life," said Gilles Laplante, owner and manager of 417 Bus Line in Casselman.

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Each week, Laplante receives at least two complaints from bus drivers who witness situations that could cost children’s lives. Among the various cases, driver impatience is a recurring problem. In these cases, the offenders will try by all possible ways to pass a bus in the middle of a traffic signal that allows children to pass.

Laplante, whose company serves Prescott-Russell and the Ottawa East region, said that offenders sometimes speed up when a bus activates its intermittent lights to indicate that drivers must stop. Others attempt to pass a bus just as children finish crossing the street, even though the stop arm and lights are on. The owner of 417 Bus Line also reported that some drivers have been known to pass a bus on a busy rural road on the right-hand side where the door to the vehicle is located.

"Once, while a bus was stopped in the middle of a signal, vehicles decided to pass it as the child entered the vehicle. Drivers couldn't overtake the bus from the left because the road was busy, so they went to the right, which is scary and extreme," he exclaimed.

Ongoing issues

Even so, Laplante feels that the occurrence of such incidents are not on the rise According to Laplante, awareness campaigns have greatly helped reduce the number of dangerous situations.

However, he added that many people still do not respect the laws and that one case is one case too many. He wanted to send a message to impatient offenders that there is never a hurry to kill a person. "You are never in a hurry to take someone's life," he concluded.

Ontario's Highway Safety Code states that drivers must maintain a distance of 20 metres in front and behind of a school bus that stops traffic on a road without a central reservation. This means that they must stop until the lights stop flashing, the stop arm is folded back or the bus starts moving again.