Every day in Ontario, nearly 824,000 students travel to and from their schools in school buses. Travelling by school bus is one of the safest ways for children to get to school, but it is essential for motorists to do their part by obeying school bus safety rules.
The main thing that drivers must be aware of when it comes to school bus safety is knowing when they need to stop so that they can avoid illegally passing the bus – that is passing the bus when it has its alternating flashing lights turned on or has its stop sign arm extended from the driver’s side.
The rules concerning illegal passing of school buses apply regardless of the speed limit on the road or number of lanes. As a driver, if you see a yellow school bus, you should be prepared to stop whether it is during school hours or not.
School Bus Safety for Roads Without Medians
If you are driving down a road without a median and a school bus stops and turns on its flashing lights, you are required to stop whether you are behind the bus or approaching it from the front. If you are approaching from the front, you must stop far enough away from the bus to give children enough room to cross the street safely. You must remain at a stop until the bus driver turns off the flashing lights and begins to move the vehicle. If you are behind the school bus, the law states that you must stop at least 20 metres behind the bus and not begin to move again until the bus does.
School Bus Safety for Roads With Medians
If you are driving on a road that has a median, you must still stop if you are behind a school bus that turns on its flashing lights, however, if you are approaching from the opposite direction, you are not required to stop.
Penalties for Safety Violations
Since school bus safety rules are a critical part of keeping our children safe, it should come as no surprise that the penalties for breaking these rules can be quite severe. The penalties for passing a school bus that has stopped and turned on its red flashing lights are as follows:
- First offence – a fine ranging from $400 to $2000 and six demerit points.
- Each subsequent offence – a fine ranging from $1000 to $4000, six demerit points, and a possible jail term of up to six months.
Another important thing to note is that the owner of the vehicle can be charged for this offence even if someone else was driving their car.
If you witness a vehicle that fails to stop for a school bus, you can report it to the police by calling 911.
As drivers, we must all do our part to help keep everyone safe on the roads, and this includes the many students who travel each day by school bus.