“When we stop, you STOP!”
That’s the message bus drivers in School District 20 (SD20) and across the province are reminding all motorists this week in a campaign called Operation Safe Stop BC.
It’s never an option to ignore the red lights and put students in harms way – the district is bringing awareness to the problem of drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses in a Safe Stop event on Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Safeway parking lots of Trail and Castlegar.
The scary truth is that no matter which SD20 bus driver you talk with, he or she has a number of alarming stories about drivers being impervious to the red flashing lights. Now the SD20 transportation department is banding together with Safe Stop and advising all drivers that yellow means slow down and red means stop, period.
Dan Haines drives two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon picking up and dropping students off along Route 20 through Trail and out to the Beaver Valley.
In the one year since he took on the job after retiring from Teck, Haines reports 15 people have run his red lights. In one instance, the same Shavers Bench motorist ignored the bus flashers and stop paddles three times – fortunately, other than giving Haines a fright, the driver’s disregard didn’t end in worst case scenario.
“They go right through,” Haines told the Trail Times. “My first week on I had three people go zooming by,” he continued. “A lot of them are drinking coffee or on their phone and they just go right on through. I’ve laid on my horn, hung out the window and waved at them to stop but they just keeping going.”
He says it’s difficult to record the licence plate numbers, with a bus full of students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, Haines’ attention is obviously on his passengers and their safety.
And dash cams are not allowed on school buses.
“A lot of people figure they can turn the corner or pass through because kids are loading (on the other side),” he said. “But there’s times where kids are late to get the bus so they’ll run (across the street). People don’t realize that if I am stopped you can’t turn or go through (around) – you stop. You don’t move.”
Another seasoned SD20 bus driver echoes Haines’ experiences.
Trevor Rawson has been driving for 10 years, and this fall, his bus is the fullest it’s ever been.
He transports 60 youngsters to Warfield every morning, last year the head count was 38.
Rawson reminds the public that all the students have to swipe a bus pass when entering and exiting the bus this year, and this requirement can take a few extra minutes.
So be patient.
“There are a lot of courteous drivers that stop even without the lights flashing,” Rawson said. “But 60 kids takes a lot of time (to load) by the time they take off their back pack and find their pass. I’ve had people beeping downtown (Centaph) and (ignoring) the stop at Cooke and Davis in Rossland.
Students are told not to run to the bus, but they do.
“I’ll have the lights going while I load the passenger side and kids who are late run across the road. Sure people have seen the signs, but they still go through.”
And both men have the same advice for impatient drivers – go another way or leave five minutes earlier.
“I know people are in a hurry,” said Haines. “But this is an everyday occurrence, we are there the same time every day if you don’t like it then leave five minutes earlier or go an alternate route.”
Over 1,500 SD20 students ride a yellow bus to and from school each day. The one-day Safe Stop event is intended to focus on driver education and enforcement and “Keeping Our Kids Safe.”
Yellow lights mean the bus is going to stop, so the campaign reminds all motorists to slow down. Red lights mean stop, the students are getting on or off the bus.
RCMP Cpl. Darryl Orr says based on location, there are certain “hot spots”</span