Po­lice ham­mer home mes­sage on pass­ing buses

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Pass­ing a school bus with red lights flash­ing is in­ex­cus­able. That’s the mes­sage be­ing ham­mered home by RCMP on Prince Ed­ward Is­land time and again. Po­lice use the phrase in ev­ery re­lease deal­ing with the is­sue. And they are right.

The $2,000 fine handed a young Sum­mer­side man this week, plus eight de­merit points, shows that the prov­ince, po­lice and courts are de­ter­mined to make Is­land roads safe for chil­dren. Many school buses are now equipped with cam­eras to cap­ture any ve­hi­cle’s li­cence plate that passes a school bus when the red lights are flash­ing.

P.E.I. has the most se­vere penal­ties in Canada for the in­frac­tion. Fines can reach as high as $5,000.

New Brunswick has fines close to $1,000 but it also in­cludes loss of li­cence. Oddly, no other prov­ince comes close in terms of size of fines or other penal­ties to those in P.E.I. and N.B.

It’s al­most the first thing a new driver learns when tak­ing cour­ses. There can be no ex­cuse for not know­ing the law. As soon as you see a school bus, your first in­stinct should be to slow down and be pre­pared to stop.

When a driver is ap­proach­ing a school bus with the flash­ing red lights ac­ti­vated, the driver must stop the ve­hi­cle not less than six me­tres (20 feet) from the front or rear of the bus. The ve­hi­cle must re­main stopped un­til the flash­ing red lights stop flash­ing.

There can only be two rea­sons for a mo­torist com­mit­ting such a fla­grant vi­o­la­tion of the High­way Traf­fic Act — a driver had to be us­ing a mo­bile de­vice or be dis­tracted in some other man­ner; or the driver de­cided to de­lib­er­ately com­mit the of­fense. Ei­ther op­tion is a chill­ing one. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to con­sider that a driver would de­lib­er­ately put the lives of in­no­cent chil­dren at risk be­cause he or she didn’t want to stop, or were in a rush to get some­where, so the bus is a mere in­con­ve­nience.

The court case this week con­cerned an in­frac­tion which oc­curred last Sept. 18 on Lower Malpeque Road in West Roy­alty. The bus was stopped with red flash­ing lights and stop sign clearly dis­played.

School had al­ready re­sumed for two weeks so mo­torists had to be aware that buses were on the road and chil­dren were cross­ing streets at the time in the morn­ing.

It was for­tu­nate that no child was put in dan­ger, and for­tu­itous that a Queens District RCMP ve­hi­cle was in the area he passed the school bus.

Po­lice used the op­por­tu­nity to ham­mer home the mes­sage that “This is about the safety of our chil­dren and driv­ers need to un­der­stand the grav­ity of what hap­pen­ing here. Driv­ers fail­ing to stop in th­ese sit­u­a­tions put our chil­dren’s lives in dan­ger.”

RCMP are en­cour­ag­ing mo­torists to re­port such in­ci­dents. Yes, ev­ery­one can play a part to en­sure a safe and se­cure en­vi­ron­ment for our school­child­ren.

Po­lice and Is­lan­ders alike are still shak­ing their heads over an in­ci­dent early last Novem­ber when a video by a Brook­field man show­ing traf­fic zoom­ing past a school bus that has stopped to pick up chil­dren.

The grand­fa­ther who shot the video had said that all school year, he saw ve­hi­cles race past the bus while it’s stopped with its lights flash­ing and stop sign out.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter see­ing the video, RCMP sent four un­marked po­lice cars to Route 2 in Brook­field to watch the area.

In a one-hour pe­riod, they charged eight peo­ple for what they call bla­tant and ag­gres­sive driv­ing be­hav­iour, in­clud­ing a driver for pass­ing a school bus. That per­son was fined $1,000 and eight de­merit points.

Yet, some mo­torists still put the lives of chil­dren at risk and their own free­dom in jeop­ardy with such stupid, fool­hardy driv­ing habits.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take a case of a child be­ing in­jured or worse be­fore some ir­re­spon­si­ble driv­ers fi­nally get the mes­sage.

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