Mounting cameras on school buses to catch illegally passing motorists that endanger students could be a last resort for the Wolf Creek School Division.
Motorists are supposed to know it’s against the law to pass a stopped school bus, while its red lights are flashing.
In Alberta drivers that don’t come to a full stop can be fined $414, and have six demerits registered on their license.
Yet, 60 vehicles failed to stop when buses were loading or unloading Wolf Creek students in the 2013-2013 school year.
And that’s only counting the license plates bus drivers managed to jot down, said the district’s transportation manager Rick Williams.
Whether these drivers are in a fog and don’t see the bus, are unaware of the law, or simply don’t care, Williams said, “it’s a very serious problem that needs to be addressed for the sake of our children.”
The Wolf Creek School Division is starting an education campaign about school bus safety, which includes mounting magnetic sign boards along rural roads that are known to have lots of passing violations. One of these is Aspelund Road west of Blackfalds.
If this doesn’t work, Williams said his district’s school trustees will look next fall into the cost of installing bus-mounted cameras to photograph offending vehicles.
He noted several Central Alberta students have already had hair-raising incidents with motorists.
Two years ago, a tanker truck passed on the right shoulder while a school bus was stopped, with red lights flashing, to pick up a child.
“Luckily it was a left-hand pick-up,” said Williams. “If it was right-hand we would have really been in trouble.”
About three years ago in the Clearview school division, a bus driver had opened the rear door to unload students when she noticed a white Camaro racing up and about to pass on the right — where children were about to disembark.
“The driver told me if she hadn’t quickly closed the door, (the car) would have taken it off” — that’s how close the Camaro passed, said Clive Spechko, Clearview’s transportation supervisor.
School bus drivers do their best to write down license numbers. But Alberta vehicles only have a rear licence plate, said Cal McRae, assistant transportation supervisor for the Wild Rose School District. And he noted it’s difficult to see the back plate of a vehicle that’s passing from the opposite direction.
Gil Gravelle, transportation director for Chinook’s Edge, believes every time a hefty fine is levied, word travels through a community and the incident educates others.
While bus-mounted cameras would provide the police with better and more consistent evidence, the consensus is they would be expensive.
School bus safety concerns are shared by school divisions throughout Central Alberta. But most other districts would let Wolf Creek test the cameras first.
Williams said cameras would be a last resort.
His division will first see if an education campaign consisting of media advertising, road signs, and notices in community and school newsletters raises awareness of the problem.