OTTAWA, Ontario — A stop-arm awareness campaign dubbed “I Stop, You Stop” is underway here thanks to a collaboration between pupil transportation and city officials.
Kathleen Both, owner of school bus company M.L. Bradley Ltd., told SBF that she’s seen an increase in the number of motorists passing school buses when they’re stopped for children to board or disembark. She was spurred to take action last fall when she learned that a student was within “inches of being hit” by a car passing a bus in her operation’s area of service.
“I called [Ottawa City Councillor] Stephen Blais in December, and he has been amazing,” Both said. “He went to Safer Roads Ottawa, and they did a blitz in January; they issued 200 tickets to people passing stopped school buses.”
(Safer Roads Ottawa works to prevent road deaths and serious injuries for all people in the city.)
Upon Both’s request, Blais also worked with city officials for approval of “I Stop, You Stop” road safety signs that were posted in areas throughout the city in April reminding motorists to stop for school buses.
“We can all agree that there is never an excuse for passing a school bus whose stop arm is out,” Blais said. “This is an egregious traffic violation that puts the lives of our children at risk.”
In addition, M.L. Bradley is participating in a stop-arm camera pilot program. A system from Seon is being installed on one of the company’s buses that travels on a route with a significant number of stop-arm violations.
The pilot program is part of a larger effort on Blais’ part to push the province to allow for the installation of this technology on school buses to capture violations.
Both said that Blais also plans to work with the government of Ontario to change current law so that camera footage of the passing vehicle’s license plate would be sufficient evidence for a conviction.
“The way the law is here, the camera will take a picture of the license plate, but the bus driver still has to go to court to identify the vehicle and the driver, which is difficult,” she explained.
On Saturday, Both attended the Independent School Bus Operators Association’s annual general meeting in Toronto to speak to the association’s members about the "I Stop, You Stop" campaign. Attendees were encouraged to take part in a province-wide stop-arm awareness campaign by educating the public on the laws governing school bus warning lights, and by monitoring/reporting stop-arm running occurrences.
Leading up to the meeting, Karen Cameron, executive director of the association, told SBF that attendees would have access to resources — such as speaking notes and a press release, as well as posters — to help them prepare for working with their local media and law enforcement to get the campaign going and to raise awareness.
“It’s really absentmindedness,” Cameron said of motorists illegally passing school buses. “That’s why we’re so keen to roll out the campaign province-wide. It’s something that needs to be addressed.”