Staff Sgt. Scott West helps School District 83 bus driver Leanne Blurton and Salmon Arm West elementary students demonstrate when it’s OK to safely cross the road at a school bus stop. (File photo)

Staff Sgt. Scott West helps School District 83 bus driver Leanne Blurton and Salmon Arm West elementary students demonstrate when it’s OK to safely cross the road at a school bus stop. (File photo)

Opinion: Give North Okanagan-Shuswap school bus drivers a brake

School Bus Safety Week takes place Oct. 17-23

There’s a lot riding on school bus drivers in getting their young passengers to and from schools safely.

Try to put yourself in their driver’s seat. You’ve got a big vehicle, seats packed with children you come to know by name and, when not making frequent stops in neighbourhoods for pick ups or drop offs, you may be spending a good part of your early mornings and afternoons travelling on Highway 1. Oh, and then there are the snowy Shuswap winters.

Driving a school bus may be a rewarding job, but that doesn’t make it easy. Which is why it’s up to the rest of us on the road to give school bus drivers a break – by braking and not passing their buses when they’ve stopped, with red lights flashing, to let kids on or off.

October 17 to 23 is School Bus Safety Week, and School District 83, under the theme “We stop – You stop,” is once again looking to remind drivers of the rules around stopping for a school bus when its red lights are activated.

School district transportation manager Andrea Kathrein has noted in recent years, the number of drivers passing school buses with their red lights on – which is when children are most vulnerable as they are entering or unloading from the bus – has risen dramatically, and the local RCMP have also been very supportive in trying to help deter this trend.

Last year Kathrein met with Staff Sgt. Scott West and school district bus driver Leanne Blurton at Salmon Arm West to help get a similar message out to drivers. Blurton shared an experience she had with a driver illegally passing her bus before speeding away. She said she managed to get the driver’s licence plate number.

“Because, hopefully, if they get a fine, they’ll tell their friends and spread the word that we’re serious, this is dangerous, they didn’t know if there were kids crossing or not and it could have been a really bad scenario,” said Blurton.

Under section 149 of the Motor Vehicle Act, drivers traveling in both directions are required to stop when buses are displaying a signal that they are receiving or discharging school children, until the bus starts moving again, or the bus driver signals that it is safe for motorists to proceed. Drivers failing to stop can be fined $368 for the first offence ($668 for the second and $1,000 for the third), and receive three driver penalty points.

Read more: School District 83, Salmon Arm RCMP look to put a stop to school bus red-light runners


lachlan@saobserver.net
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