FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — School bus driver Cindy Dettling got involved in the Safe Stop program last fall, and has been working actively to change government laws and fines for drivers that ignore the flashing red lights of a school bus.
Last year, the school district decided to keep tabs of how frequently drivers break this law — and in a 50-day period between April and June when school buses ran, there was 51 infractions. Dettling reports now that drivers are still offending at the same rate as before, as 72 infractions were reported in a 70-day period between Sept. 4 and Jan. 25.
“The school year is half over, and even with ongoing advertising and media coverage, drivers are still not getting the message,” said Dettling.
Since taking part in Safe Stop, Dettling has been campaigning for an increase in fines in B.C. for driving through the flashing red lights of a school bus’ from $167 to $368 with an increase in penalty points. Currently, the penalty carries three points against your license.
“The Government has been contacted by School Districts and Cities, province wide in support of this increase”, states Dettling, “Lets hope they listen and take action before a tragedy takes place.”
CTV Vancouver’s Ross McLaughlin recently investigated this, including cameras being used on school buses in B.C. to catch the offending drivers.
Dettling says drivers who ignore these lights are reported by the bus driver, who take note of the date, time and location of the infraction as well as licence plate numbers, when possible. She adds that, when licence plates are able to be recorded, they are forwarded to the RCMP.
She recalled one morning when she recognized the driver of an SUV that ran through her lights as a mother of one of her bus-riders.
“I wondered if she even thought about what she was doing and how she would feel if it was her child who was injured or killed by a careless driver,” Dettling said. “I hope we never find out.”
It is not illegal to drive through the amber lights of a school bus, which flash when it is preparing to stop, but Dettling says it is dangerous.
Luckily, there have been no deaths reported in B.C. out of these close calls. Unfortunately, a 5-year-old boy in Ontario died in February 2000 when he was hit by a driver that failed to stop. His death sparked a campaign called ‘Let’s Remember Adam,’ to encourage drivers to think twice about passing a stopped school bus with flashing red lights.