Lib­er­als not ready to com­mit to school bus cam­eras

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JESSICA SMITH CROSS

TORONTO — On­tario leg­is­la­tors are de­bat­ing the idea of us­ing cam­eras on school buses to ticket driv­ers that il­le­gally blow past the ve­hi­cles as chil­dren get on and off, but the govern­ment isn’t ready to com­mit to the mea­sure with­out fur­ther study.

Lo­cal politi­cians and school bus com­pa­nies have called on the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to pass leg­is­la­tion that will en­able video from cam­eras mounted on the out­side of school buses to be ad­mit­ted as ev­i­dence in court with­out a wit­ness to back up the footage, as is cur­rently the re­quire­ment.

Such a change in law could mean that the own­ers of ve­hi­cles that il­le­gally pass school buses get tick­ets in the mail af­ter be­ing caught on cam­era.

But Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Steven Del Duca said while the govern­ment is sup­port­ive of the idea, it isn’t ready to pass leg­is­la­tion on it with­out fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion. The govern­ment has some con­cerns about the de­tails of the tech­nol­ogy in­volved and the leg­isla­tive change it would re­quire, he said.

“We’re go­ing to make sure we get it right,” Del Duca said. “Mov­ing for­ward with tech­nol­ogy that doesn’t ac­tu­ally pro­vide you with the out­come you’re look­ing for doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

A pi­lot project also tested the tech­nol­ogy this spring in Brant­ford, Mis­sis­sauga, Sud­bury and the Water­loo Re­gion.

It was con­ducted by a com­pany that makes the cam­eras, along with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, school boards and po­lice forces in the com­mu­ni­ties.

The project found driv­ers il­le­gally passed school buses that stopped to let chil­dren on or off — with their lights flash­ing and stop-arm out — in all those com­mu­ni­ties.

In ru­ral Brant­ford, there was one blow-by per bus every three days, but in Mis­sis­sauga, the prob­lem was the worst — oc­cur­ring an av­er­age of two-and-a-half times per bus per day.

Mis­sis­sauga Mayor Bon­nie Crombie said the prov­ince needs to deal with the is­sue.

“We must take ac­tion to re­duce th­ese in­ci­dences and in­crease safety for our chil­dren,” she said in a state­ment.

“We can­not wait for se­ri­ous in­jury or a fa­tal­ity be­fore we act.”

Even with video of driv­ers il­le­gally passing school buses, fines of­ten aren’t laid be­cause the footage can’t be con­sid­ered ev­i­dence in court with­out a wit­ness. Re­tired bus driver Leo Heu­vel­mans said it’s hard for a bus driver to take down the li­cence plate of a vehicle that whizzes past a school bus while still watch­ing stu­dents go­ing and com­ing from the vehicle.

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