Written By: Salvatore Shaw and Keanin Parish, Student-at-Law
Back to school is an exciting time for students and parents alike, and taking the bus is an important part of getting children to and home from school. Every day, over 800,000 kids in Ontario take a bus to school. They are transported in more than 18,000 school vehicles traveling nearly 2 million kilometers each day.
Research shows that it’s an extremely safe way to travel, until it’s time for them to get off. If a child is injured, it is most likely to happen outside the school bus when the student is entering or exiting the bus.
Estimates from provincial data show that 30,000 drivers speed past school buses daily, even when they have their lights flashing. As such, it is important that everyone remembers to follow the rules of the road as it relates to buses – especially after many of us have worked or studied from home for the last two years.
WHAT’S NEW SINCE THE PRE-PANDEMIC COMMUTE
During the pandemic, a new school bus lighting system has been introduced in Ontario by the Ministry of Transportation in July 2022. School buses made after January 2005 must now be equipped with amber flashing lights, along with red flashing lights at the front and rear of the vehicle.
Amber Flashing Lights
The new amber lights are to provide advance notice that the school bus is preparing to stop. Amber lights will turn on when the school bus is approaching a stop location where the vehicle will be loading students. These lights mean that the bus is preparing to stop and that drivers themselves should also slow down and prepare to stop.
Red Flashing Lights
After the amber lights are illuminated, the bus will come to a stop, and its upper red lights will turn on. Vehicles approaching a school bus with its upper red lights and/or stop arm flashing must come to a complete stop. It is important to stop a safe distance to let children move to or from the bus.
If there is a median dividing the roadway, drivers are required to stop 20 meters away if you are driving in the same direction of the bus. If there is no dividing median, drivers travelling in both directions must stop for a school bus 20 meters away.
As long as the red lights on the school bus are flashing or its stop arm is out, vehicles cannot pass the bus. If you fail to stop moving for a bus with its lights on, you may face a fine upon conviction of:
- 6 demerit points
- For a first offence, fines ranging from $400 to $2,000
- For each following offence:
- fines ranging from $1,000 to $4,000
- 6 demerit points
- Possible jail time of up to 6 months
Here are some helpful tips for children to remember when it comes to riding the school bus.
- Arrive at the bus stop early. Never run after the bus to catch it.
- Stay on the sidewalk, away from the road and stay back until the bus has come to a full stop and the door opens.
- Remove any headphones and make sure to look around for cars before leaving the side of the roadway
- If your child needs to cross the street, teach them to look to the left, then to the right, and to the left once more before crossing the street. If in doubt, don’t leave the safety of the sidewalk.
- Walk – never run – across the road
- Wait for the bus driver to signal when it is safe to cross the road.
- Never walk behind the bus – always walk in front of it
Safety is every driver’s responsibility, especially with so many children on our roads during the school year. Let’s all do our best to ensure children get to and from school safely.
McLeish Orlando’s personal injury lawyers wishes everyone a safe and happy school year!