Drivers blowing past warning signals too often, says School District
When Rod Tranter stops his school bus at the side of the road, flashing strobe lights come on and the stop sign flips out. The bus becomes a big yellow blinking alert that children are nearby.
Traffic is supposed to come to a halt, but too often these days drivers just blow past the warning lights. Some slow down, some speed up and some even scream abuse as they disregard the hard-to-miss stop sign.
“Lights strobe amber and red, and people still drive past,” said Rod Tranter, a five-year school bus driver with the Sooke School District. “It worries us a lot, from drivers up to the superintendent.
“People need to be aware that when a bus stops, children are nearby. People need to be patient and let us do our job, and everybody will be happy — especially the parents.”
Each school day, a team of 30 bus drivers transport about 3,400 of students on 28 routes between the West Shore, Sooke and the Malahat.
Bus drivers see at least two dangerous incidents per week or about 80 over the school year where people break the law and veer around the 40-foot school bus.
“It’s enough to cause us concern,” said Dave Lockyer, SD 62 treasurer. “Sometimes kids need to cross the road to get to the bus, and that’s where it becomes dangerous.”
With more cars and more congestion on the West Shore, bus drivers say it’s only a matter of time before a child is struck by someone in a hurry to get to work.
Tranter said notorious spots are on Happy Valley Road, Sooke Road, Glen Lake Road, and Setchfield Avenue, all areas where many kids are competing with impatient commuter traffic.
He points out the Motor Vehicle Act which says drivers “must” stop for school buses displaying warning signals.
“I’ve waved my hands and yelled to get peoples’ attention, but they totally ignore me. They are so focused on getting past the bus,” Tranter said.
“I’m not sure if its getting worse, but it’s not getting any better. With the volume of cars increasing, it won’t get any better. We will see more incidents.”
To combat lead-foot motorists, bus drivers often radio in licence plates and car makes to their dispatch, who in turn call the RCMP. Bus drivers will often immediately call the police themselves if the drive-by was egregiously dangerous.
“You can’t say you didn’t see the stop sign,” Tranter said.
Bus drivers, among others, caution kids to cross the road carefully and most do.
“Most children respect the bus drivers, they generally listen to us,” Tranter said. “But children also get distracted easily. They might see their friends or parents and run across the road. Kids do things impulsively.”