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EDITORIAL: Decrease in red light school bus violations in southwestern N.S. a move in right direction but still a ways to go

['Stop for school buses when red lights are activated. TINA COMEU PHOTO']
Stop for school buses when red lights are activated. TINA COMEU PHOTO

SOUTHWESTERN, N.S. – There is better news to report about red light school bus violations in Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne counties.

According to Steve Stoddart, director of operational services for the Tri-County Regional Centre for Education, during this past school year – in comparison to previous years – there has been a large decrease in the number of times motorists have passed school buses with their red lights activated.

During the 2017-18 school year there were 201 violations.

This compares to 299 violations during the 2015-16 school year and 271 violations during the 2016-17 school year.

Stoddart credits a media blitz over the years to draw attention to this problem as having a positive impact. Indeed, this issue came up frequently around the table when the Tri-County Regional School Board was in place. Year after year elected boards members, in addition to board staff, expressed concern, anger and frustration that motorists would put the safety and lives of students at risk but not stopping when school buses had their red lights and emergency equipment activated.

The board has cameras installed on many of its buses aimed at helping to identify drivers when red light violations occur so that this information can be used in court if/when charges are laid.

Stoddart says this spring they took things a step further.

“A new factor this year was a pilot project we have undertaken where we have installed flashing red LED lights in the grills of our buses mainly in Yarmouth County,” he says. “These lights activate when the regular red lights come on and appear to be more visible to the drivers of oncoming traffic.”

During the month of May this year there were seven red light violations, compared to 22 during the same month a year ago. In June there were 14 violations, which was a decrease from 21 the previous June.

In total: 21 violations for those two months in 2018 compared to 43 violations in 2017.

“It is our intention to have these lights installed on all of our buses, so the 2018-19 school year will tell if we get the same results in all counties,” Stoddart says.

We suspect the violations occur because drivers are in a hurry and also because people are too distracted behind the wheel – although honestly, it’s kind of hard to miss a stopped big yellow bus with lights flashing.

And there is nowhere you need to get to fast enough that you can’t take the time to stop for kids crossing the road.

Whatever the reason for the violations, it’s good to see the numbers are decreasing. Hopefully it’s not just a sign that the message is getting across and the initiatives to keep students safe are working but we also hope it becomes a trend.

There’s still a long way to go to eliminate the problem entirely, but at least things are starting to move in the right direction.

Stop for buses to keep our kids safe.

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