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‘Watch For Me’ - RCMP offers quick course for motorists on school bus safety

‘Watch For Me, Stop For Me’ is the RCMP school bus safety campaign slogan and police are urging motorists to heed some simple advice to keep children safe – like slow down when you see a school bus.
‘Watch For Me, Stop For Me’ is the RCMP school bus safety campaign slogan and police are urging motorists to heed some simple advice to keep children safe – like slow down when you see a school bus. - Lawrence Powell

BRIDGETOWN, NS - For most people making a list of things to NOT do, passing a stopped school bus with red lights flashing would be close to the top. Yet drivers in Annapolis County and Middleton do it on a regular basis.

Through an awareness campaign, followed by a focus on enforcement, Annapolis District RCMP hopes to put a stop to it.

Community Programing officer Adam Burns has identified five hot spots where school buses are being illegally passed. When school starts up again on Sept. 6, RCMP members in patrol cars will be on the road and violators will be stopped.

“Obviously the first of the school year everybody’s not back in the swing of things yet,” said Burns. “There are issues. People are passing school buses when they shouldn’t pass them.”

“It’s not just a concern of mine, it’s a concern that’s brought to our attention by the police advisory board, the County of Annapolis and the Town of Middleton,” Staff-Sgt. Dan MacGillivray said. “Our police advisory board has concerns about school bus safety so we’ve taken those concerns and we’ve developed a plan to address that.”

He said it’s a combination of education, like the RCMP’s presence in the Annapolis Valley Exhibition parade in Lawrencetown where MacGillivray and Burns, plus a handful of children handed out information on school bus safety. The theme is ‘Watch for Me, Stop for Me.’

Enforcement

“Now it has to be followed up with enforcement,” MacGillivray said.

He plans on a September-October enforcement focus followed by a report to tell the people of Annapolis County and Middleton how they made out.

“It’s still happening despite all the messaging that’s out there. The enforcement that has taken place – there’s still people passing these school buses with the red lights and the stop signs prominently displayed,” MacGillivray said. “It seems to be predominantly in the morning time. That’s when we get a lot of those complaints, which seems to me to indicate people are in a rush in the morning and they just want to get by the bus. But the potential for harm and danger is so high they just can’t (pass). They have to stop and wait.”

MacGillivray said there are certain areas that are busier than others.

“That’s why Adam Burns is speaking with the school board to determine where the hot spots are, where more offences are occurring than others,” he said. “I wish we had unlimited resources, that we could be everywhere all the time, but we have to be strategic and we need that information to target certain areas.”

‘Must Stop’

School Safety Resource Officer Const. Cheryl Ponee is also concerned about school bus safety.

“The RCMP is reminding the public, with the approaching 2018-2019 school year, that vehicles must stop for a school bus that is stopped and displaying flashing red lights,” she said. “It’s illegal to pass the bus at this time. Frequently, children are crossing the street to and from their bus, and can be exposed to any traffic that passes the bus.”

She said the penalty for passing a school bus illegally is $410 and six points against your license which she described as a first offense, out of court settlement.

“For subsequent offences, the fine increases to $1272.50,” she said.

She also noted that many school buses are now being equipped with cameras to catch any vehicles failing to stop.

“I think we just have to get out early and get the message out to the public that we are doing that type of enforcement, that it’s important, and hopefully that message carries through for the academic year,” MacGillivray said. “And we’ll be doing it at different points throughout the year.”

The Law

Paying attention to the task of driving is the simple message. Don’t get distracted, get focused.

Here’s what you need to know about school buses:

-- Amber flashing lights alert you that the school bus is about to stop

-- Red flashing lights are used when the school bus is stopped to pick up or discharge students

-- You must stop when red lights are flashing, whether you are behind or in front of the bus

-- Do not pass a school bus with flashing red lights at any time or place from either direction, including a divided boulevard

-- 20 meters is the correct stopping distance from both in front and behind the bus

If you don’t heed the above, then you put children at risk.

Violations

If you don’t heed the above you also put your pocket book at risk.

The penalty for illegally passing a school bus – red lights flashing -- is the loss of six points against one’s license (which may trigger a review of your license) and a fine starting at $410. That’s for a first offence. Do it again and the fine is $697.50, and a third offence is $1,272.50.

You can also be fined for failing to proceed with caution when passing a school bus with amber lights flashing. That starts at $295 and goes up to $467.50 for the second offence, and $812.50 for a third infraction.

School Zones

School zones are in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, when children are present in the school zone area.

Here is how they work:

-- The speed limit drops to 30 km/h in areas where the approaching speed limit is 50 km/h, when children are present.

-- In areas where the speed limit is higher than 50km/h approaching a school zone, drivers continue to be required to reduce their speed to a maximum of 50km/h when children are present.

-- Speed fines and penalties are dependent on the degree at which the motorist is above the reduced speed limit in the school area and range from $352.50 to $697.50 – with two to four penalty points.

Crosswalks

Police also want drivers to pay close attention to crosswalks.

Failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is four points against your license and a fine starting at $679.50.

-- Watch for kids between parked vehicles and on sidewalks or side of the road.

-- Parked or stopped vehicles may hide a pedestrian crossing the road.

-- Do not park within 5 meters of a crosswalk, whether marked or unmarked.

-- Be very cautious of backing out of a parking spot or driveway.

The RCMP encourages families to take time to talk to children about road safety. Remind them to look both ways before crossing the street, make eye contact with drivers and wait for them to stop before crossing the road, and pay close attention to oncoming traffic.

Did you know?

School bus yellow is a colour that was especially formulated for use on school buses in North America in 1939. The color is now officially known as National School Bus Glossy Yellow.

The color was chosen because it attracts attention and is noticed quickly in peripheral vision, faster than any other color. Scientists describe this as follows: "Lateral peripheral vision for detecting yellows is 1.24 times greater than for red.”

-- Source: Wikipedia

More Information

If you would like more information on the rules of the road, you can contact your local police, view the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook at www.novascotia.ca/sns/rvmlincence/handbook.asp, and visit www.schoolbussafety.ca

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