No matter which direction you are traveling on a roadway, school bus traffic laws state that you are not allowed to pass a school bus with lights flashing. The reasons for this seem obvious to most of us – there are children exiting the bus and crossing the road, and vehicles in both directions are supposed to stop and let them safely pass.
Evidently there are a few of us who need some remedial education on this point.
Over the period of one month in 2014, a safe roads campaign in Ottawa issued 200 tickets to motorists. These drivers ignored the flashing lights and proceeded to pass the bus. I have personally watched this happen repeatedly at the school bus stop along Highway 15 in Kingston, where some of my own kids would catch the bus. With more than 800,000 students in Ontario on school buses (over 32-thousand in this region), this danger is one that warrants our attention. If you see someone passing a school bus, here’s what to do, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation: Record the following:
The date and time of the incident.
The vehicle’s make, model, colour and licence number.
Who was driving?
Was the bus a “chrome yellow” school bus with the words “School Bus” at both the front and rear of the bus?
Was it a small or a large school bus?
Was the school bus stopped?
Were the upper red lights of the school bus flashing while it was stopped?
Were there passengers boarding or leaving the school bus?
Did the vehicle pass the school bus from behind or was it coming toward the bus in the opposite lane?
All motorists who witness such an offence (including school bus drivers) are encouraged to file a report with police. If there’s enough information – especially a license plate number – police can still charge the vehicle’s registered owner even if they weren’t driving.
The penalty in Ontario for a first offence is $400-$2,000 and six demerit points. If you’re caught doing it again, the fine will range from $1,000-4,000 plus six demerit points, and possible jail time up to six months.