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Personal Injury

School bus safety: Are stop arm cameras the answer?

"In a world that has evolved dramatically since our own school days, the protection of our young passengers demands innovative solutions."

As September rolls around, the familiar sight of yellow school buses once again fills our morning commutes. For many, this sight brings back memories of bouncing around the back seats as the bus traveled across bumpy roads. For most children, their main concerns are finding a friend to sit next to or making sure they don’t miss the bus.

School bus safety has come a long way over the past few decades. While we may look back on those carefree bus rides with fondness, we also recognize that the safety of our children is paramount. In a world that has evolved dramatically since our own school days, the protection of our young passengers demands innovative solutions. This is where the integration of stop arm cameras, designed to catch cars passing buses illegally, becomes not just a modern enhancement but a critical safeguard in preserving the cherished memories of those bumpy rides.

According to the Canada Gazette, the safest method of transporting children to school is by school bus. While children are safer being transported by bus, they are at greater risk of injury while in or near loading zones compared to the risks faced as a passenger. One particularly dangerous point of the child’s journey is when they are approaching the bus stop or exiting the bus at a stop. Often, children will run towards a bus without looking for dangers, filled with excitement about seeing their friends and heading off to school or home for the day, or worried about getting to the bus stop on time before it pulls away. Though parents, schools, and bus drivers stress the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street, the risk posed by drivers passing school buses needs to be addressed.

One recommendation from the Task Force on School Bus Safety’s Report included the implementation of infraction cameras on school buses. The idea behind these cameras, which are mounted along the side of buses or on the stop arms themselves, is to catch motorists who pass buses and present a risk to children boarding or disembarking from the bus.

In Atlantic Canada, passing a stopped school bus is illegal, and if caught, you will be subject from fines ranging up to $1,200 and demerit points added to your license, depending on the province.

New Brunswick recently invested $690,000 in infraction cameras that will be mounted on the stop arms of school buses in Edmundston, Bathurst, Miramichi, Fredericton, and Moncton. This project stems from a successful 2019 pilot of 19 buses with stop arm cameras. A number of school buses in Nova Scotia have been equipped with infraction cameras as well.

School bus stopping distances

Stopping distance for school bus with red lights flashing per province:

ProvinceDistanceLegislative Provision
New Brunswick5 metresSection 188(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, RSNB 1973, c M-17.
Newfoundland and Labrador“before reaching the bus”Section 137(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, RSNL 1990, c H-3.
Nova Scotia*“before passing a school bus”Section 103(3) of the Motor Vehicle Act, RSNS 1989, c 293.
Prince Edward Island6 metresSection 202(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, RSPEI 1988, c H-5.

*The Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook recommends stopping 20 metres away from a stopped school bus with red lights flashing, however, the legislation does not specify an exact distance.

General safety tips for drivers

As we continue into the school year, drivers should keep in mind the following safety tips when navigating through a school zone or around a school bus:

  • Reduce speed in school zones to avoid collisions and fines
  • Use caution around crosswalks and other areas children might cross
  • Do not pass a school bus from either direction when the red lights are flashing

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