The law is clear: if a school bus is stopped with its red lights flashing all traffic, in both directions, must come to a stop to allow students to safely get on or off the bus. The only exception is on a multi-lane roadway with a raised median or an unpaved strip of ground between opposing lanes. In that case, oncoming traffic is free to continue past the stopped bus.
That said, Barrie 360 has received a letter from a school bus driver who has had as many as 20 vehicles pass his pass when the red lights were flashing, citing Livingstone Street, Anne Street and Highway 27 and Ardagh Street as problem areas. This operator wondering if there’s confusion regarding the Stop sign that swings out from the operator’s side of some buses…wonders if some drivers think they only have to stop when the sign swings out.
The stop sign is only meant as an added measure of safety when the flashing lights are activated. It’s the overhead flashing lights that govern when other drivers have to stop.
The following is from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation:
Drivers: know the rules
When driving on a road WITHOUT a median:
- drivers travelling in both directions must stop for a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing
- when you approach the bus from the front, stop at a safe distance to let children get on or off the bus and cross the road
- don’t move forward until the red lights have stopped flashing or the bus begins to move
When driving on a road WITH a median:
- traffic coming from the opposite direction is not required to stop.
Drivers can be charged if they pass a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing:
- First offence: $400 to $2,000 and six demerit points..
- Each following offence: $1,000 to $4,000, six demerit points and possible jail time (up to six months)
Vehicle owners can be charged if their vehicle illegally passes a stopped school bus, even if they weren’t driving.
Reporting Drivers Who Don’t Stop
You can report a vehicle that doesn’t stop properly for a school bus to police immediately by calling 911.
You can also go to the nearest police station and file a complaint. The police will ask you:
- The date and time of the incident.
- The vehicle’s make, model, colour and licence number.
- Who was driving?
- Was the bus a “chrome yellow” school bus with the words “School Bus” at both the front and rear of the bus?
- Was it a small or a large school bus?
- Was the school bus stopped?
- Were the upper red lights of the school bus flashing while it was stopped?
- Were there passengers boarding or leaving the school bus?
- Did the vehicle pass the school bus from behind or was it coming toward the bus in the opposite lane?
Other details can also help, such as witness accounts or photographs.