Be aware of school buses as students are back in class

High Prairie School Division buses are back on the road as school starts Sept. 5. Left-right, are bus driver trainees Grant Churchill, of Kinuso, Brandie Matheson, of Slave Lake, Nicole Helmus, of Donnelly, Normand Soucy, of McLennan, and Harry Davis, director of transportation.

Richard Froese

School buses are on the road again and motorists are reminded to be cautious to protect students.

“Motorists are reminded to be compliant to traffic regulations around school buses,’ says Harry Davis, director of transportation for High Prairie School Division.
“Have patience and understanding when approaching school buses.”

The maximum speed for buses on a highway is 90 km/hr, Davis says.

Flashing amber lights indicate the bus will be stopping to pick-up or drop off students – slow down.

When the stop arm is extended, it indicates the bus has stopped and is in the process of picking up or dropping off students – STOP!

“It is illegal to pass a bus with its alternating red lights flashing,” Davis says.
“Failure to comply can result in a $543 fine and six demerit points.”
“Just knowing school buses are transporting children should be enough for motorists to be observant and have patience to allow the operator to do their tasks safely without risk to them or the students they transport,” Davis says.
“No one would want it on their conscio- us by striking a child for failing to observe and respect the school bus and their lighting systems.”

Bus drivers take great care to transport students safely and respect other motorists on the roads.

“All our bus operators are expected to operate professionally and this includes allowing traffic to pass when it is safe to do so,” Davis says.
“They would simply slow down, move slightly over to the right (without endangering themselves by placing the bus in a compromising position) and allow the vehicle(s) to pass.”

Cameras installed on buses last year have shown poor driving habits around buses.

“We had 195 violations last school year and indicates many motorists need to significantly improve their habits when near a school bus,” Davis says.
“Be aware of school buses and the use of their alternating amber and red flashing lights.
“Law enforcement has reported back that the video evidence provided them on many of the violations has resulted in a 100 per cent conviction of the perpetrator,” Davis says.

One near-tragedy was recorded just east of Slave Lake on Jan. 17.

“Video evidence showed our operator was westbound doing a highway drop-off with the bus’s red flashing lights and stop arm activated,” Davis says.

An eastbound SUV approached from the opposite side and stopped as required.

As the student was unloading from the bus, an audible horn could be heard, the SUV suddenly/quickly accelerated forward to their shoulder’s edge.

“Immediately afterwards, a loaded tractor unit with horn blaring sped through without any indication of braking,” Davis says.
“This could very easily have resulted in tragedy.”

Video evidence was handed over to the RCMP for follow-up.

Bus routes continue to be reviewed to ensure safety of students.

“As a rule, we do not want to do stops on a highway, but unfortunately, there are a few areas where this is necessary,” Davis says.
“Communication with and support from the Ministry of Highways for signage of pending student pick-ups or drop-offs has been appreciated, specifically east and west of Slave Lake.”

Rules have been established for students boarding, unboarding and travelling on school buses.

“The critical message is when students are being loaded or unloaded this is when students are at greatest risk,” Davis says.

If students are required to cross the road, they are to observe the bus operator for approval to safely cross to the other side.

When riding the bus, students are expected to be seated at all times within the seating area.

They are to use their classroom voices and behaviour so they do not distract the driver.

School buses utilize compartmentalization which is why the bus seats have heavy padding and high backs.

This provides a “cocoon” effect to protect the student in case of an incident. Therefore, they must be properly seated and positioned at all times while the bus is in motion.

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