School Buses and Children Safety – What Drivers Should Know

Written By: Lindsay Charles and Courtney Stewart, Student-at-Law

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It is that that bittersweet time of year again – summer is ending, and children have returned to school. Many children will make their way to and from school by travelling on the approximately 18,000 Ontario school buses that transport children each day.

Injuries and fatalities involving school buses are rare but sadly do occur. Most of these incidents occur while children are exiting the school bus and crossing the street. By reviewing the rules of the road and keeping pedestrian safety at the top of our minds we can all help keep children safe in, and around school buses.

Drivers – Be Patient and Stop for School Buses

Drivers are usually required to stop for a school bus with its upper red lights flashing. There are different rules depending on whether or not the road you are travelling on has a median, a physical separation or barrier between the opposing lanes of traffic

When driving on a road WITHOUT a median, drivers travelling in both directions MUST stop for a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing. Some school buses will also display a stop sign with flashing lights. Flashing upper red light with or without the stop sign is an indication that children are boarding or exiting the school bus. Drivers in both directions must stop a safe distance from the school bus, especially at the front, to allow children to safely get on or off the bus. Do not begin to move again until the red lights have stopped flashing, or the bus begins to move.

When driving on a road WITH a median, drivers do not need to stop if travelling in the opposite direction from a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing.

Drivers can be charged if they do not properly stop for school buses. A conviction for passing a stopped school bus can result in fines, demerit points and jail time up to six months for repeated offences. Vehicle owners can even be charged if their vehicle illegally passes a school bus, even if the were not driving at the time.

In addition to the rules regarding stopping for school buses, drivers should:

  • Be aware of the increased number of children who may be waiting for the bus on the sides of the road.
  • Leave extra space when driving behind buses – be prepared to stop and wait while buses make frequent stops.
  • Be patient – in addition to making frequent stops, school buses tend to drive more slowly than other vehicles on the road.

School Bus Drivers Have a Higher Standard of Care than the General Public

From inside the bus, school bus drivers and companies know how important their passengers are to parents and to the whole community. Bus drivers and their companies are responsible for ensuring that children are safe while getting on the bus, while on the bus and while getting off the bus. Bus drivers who do not report re-occurring unsafe behavior to their company or to the contracting school have been found liable for injuries resulting from such behaviour.[1] Professional drivers can also be held to a higher standard of care than the general public when driving in their professional capacity.[2] Transportation companies should be aware of their duties and responsibilities.

For more information on school bus safety click here.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a school bus, please contact the critical injury lawyers at McLeish Orlando LLP for a free consultation.

Make sure to use extra caution and good judgement around school buses to help ensure everyone makes it school safely. Have a great school year!

[1] Little v Floyd Sinton Limited (15 December 2017), Barrie CV-12-0297 (ONSC).

[2] Gardiner v MacDonald, 2016 ONSC 602

Alexis Perlman


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