North Okanagan and Shuswap schools are urging parents to pay attention to school busses and pedestrians with the start of the new school year.
School District #83 has employed several tactics to increase the safety of students, but awareness has to start with drivers. The district continues to work with local RCMP detachments to enforce safe driving around school zones and will be holding a School Bus Safety week Oct. 21 to 25. Several busses have also received tech upgrades that will help law enforcement catch those who choose to ignore bus stop indicators.
Over the summer, district mechanics installed more stop sign cameras on district buses, increasing the number of busses with the cameras from three to 18.
Data collected after a safety campaign in February showed the people passing busses with red lights flashing stayed the same, but the number of vehicles the district was able to report to police had increased.
“Now we can send video footage to our RCMP detachments, and with more of our busses having these cameras, we expect those numbers to go up in the first part of our year so we’re very excited about that,” said Andrea Kathrein, SD83’s transportation manager.
Kathrein says most drivers running past red lights are coming through the backroads near the school grounds. She says people sometimes pass the bus while its yellow warning lights are flashing but some continue on even when those lights switch to red.
Summer is quickly coming to an end, which means school is almost back in session.
— ICBC (@icbc) August 27, 2019
“We’ve had students who are ready to cross the street but the bus driver has to honk the horn at them and make them wait because a driver has gone through our red lights,” Kathrein said. “We have had drivers come up and pass on either the right or the left. The right is the most scary because that is where our students are waiting or disembarking.”
Along with cameras looking out for drivers, Salmon Arm RCMP and local Community Policing Speed Watch volunteers will also be closely monitoring school grounds and enforcing the 30 km/hr school zone speed limit.
Fines in British Columbia start at $196 and range up to $253 for speeding in a school zone. If a driver is found to be speeding excessively, the fine is up to $483 and the vehicle may be impounded.
Salmon Arm RCMP have provided a few back-to-school safety tips.
• Plan a route with your children before school starts. This can be done during a family walk. In doing so, parents have the opportunity to point out stop signs, crosswalks and alternative footpaths, and provide an estimate of how long the trip to school will take.
• Go over good general safety rules for children and tell them what to watch for and give them the tip to make eye contact with drivers at crosswalks.
• Wearing bright-colored clothing is a good way to keep children visible, whether it be a hat, jacket or backpack.