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‘Watch For Me’ - Slower is safer, says RCMP in quick course for motorists on school bus safety

Students handed out information on school bus safety Aug. 14 at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition parade in Lawrencetown. ‘Watch For Me, Stop For Me’ is the campaign theme. Automatically slowing down when you see a school bus, or when you enter a school zone, is the first step.
Students handed out information on school bus safety Aug. 14 at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition parade in Lawrencetown. ‘Watch For Me, Stop For Me’ is the campaign theme. Automatically slowing down when you see a school bus, or when you enter a school zone, is the first step.

BRIDGETOWN - School buses are bright yellow for a reason. Add flashing amber and red lights and they’re hard to miss on streets and highways – but people do.  

Every year drivers pass those bright yellow buses when those red lights are flashing, putting children in danger. In fact, during the first week of school police often receive an increased number of reports of drivers passing school buses while their flashing red lights are on.

This year school starts on Sept. 6 for most students in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board area.

RCMP Const. Dave Fairfax said that while tickets are usually issued in these cases, police are more concerned that this situation could result in a tragedy. He said as a result, the RCMP will be conducting extra patrols across Nova Scotia to ensure our children are safe.

Fairfax is School Safety Resource Officer for Annapolis District RCMP and he’s determined that motorists will get the message – just slow down when you see a school bus.

“By reducing your speed around school buses, especially when they are distributing their amber or red lights, you’ll have more time to react to the unexpected and avoid dangerous situations,” he said. “Please remember -- in our school zones -- slower is safer."

The Annapolis District RCMP started early on their campaign of school bus safety by taking part in the Annapolis Valley Exhibition parade Aug. 14 in Lawrencetown. They had two big buses and kids handing out information on the topic. Watch For Me, Stop for Me is the campaign theme promoted by police and the school board. Detachment commander Staff-Sgt. Dan MacGillivray drove an RCMP SUV in the parade in the awareness campaign.

School Zones

"As we prepare for the beginning of a new school year, the RCMP will be targeting school zones across Nova Scotia to ensure our children are safe and remind motorists to be driving with care and caution," MacGillivray said.

Paying attention to the task of driving is the simple message. Don’t get distracted, get focused.

Here’s what you need to know about school buses:

-- Amber flashing lights alert you that the school bus is about to stop

-- Red flashing lights are used when the school bus is stopped to pick up or discharge students

-- You must stop when red lights are flashing, whether you are behind or in front of the bus

-- Do not pass a school bus with flashing red lights at any time or place from either direction, including a divided boulevard

-- 20 meters is the correct stopping distance from both in front and behind the bus

If you don’t heed the above, then you put children at risk.

Violations

‘Watch For Me, Stop For Me’ is the RCMP school bus safety campaign slogan and police are urging motorists to heed some simple advice to keep children safe – like slow down when you see a school bus.

If you don’t heed the above you also put your pocket book at risk.

The penalty for illegally passing a school bus – red lights flashing -- is the loss of six points against one’s license (which may trigger a review of your license) and a fine starting at $410. That’s for a first offence. Do it again and the fine is $697.50, and a third offence is $1,272.50.

You can also be fined for failing to proceed with caution when passing a school bus with amber lights flashing. That starts at $295 and goes up to $467.50 for the second offence, and $812.50 for a third infraction.

"School bus safety is everyone's responsibility,” said MacGillivray. “Motorist are reminded to be ever aware of children especially in areas where school buses travel. One never knows when a child might dart out into oncoming traffic."

Pay Attention

Fairfax said drivers must also pay close attention when they enter school zones.  

“School zones are in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, when children are present in the school zone area,” RCMP said in the information package handed out at the Valley Ex parade.

Here is how they work:

-- The speed limit drops to 30 km/h in areas where the approaching speed limit is 50 km/h, when children are present.

-- In areas where the speed limit is higher than 50km/h approaching a school zone, drivers continue to be required to reduce their speed to a maximum of 50km/h when children are present.

-- Speed fines and penalties are dependent on the degree at which the motorist is above the reduced speed limit in the school area and range from $352.50 to $697.50 – with two to four penalty points.

Crosswalks

Police also want drivers to pay close attention to is crosswalks.

Failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is four points against your license and a fine starting at $679.50.

The handout at the parade had some good advice on that topic as well.

-- Watch for kids between parked vehicles and on sidewalks or side of the road.

-- Parked or stopped vehicles may hide a pedestrian crossing the road.

-- Do not park within 5 meters of a crosswalk, whether marked or unmarked.

-- Be very cautious of backing out of a parking spot or driveway.

Fairfax said the RCMP encourages families to take time to talk to children about road safety.  Remind them to look both ways before crossing the street, make eye contact with drivers and wait for them to stop before crossing the road, and pay close attention to oncoming traffic.

“We want to make sure your kids stay safe.”

Did you know?

School bus yellow is a colour that was especially formulated for use on school buses in North America in 1939. The color is now officially known as National School Bus Glossy Yellow.

The color was chosen because it attracts attention and is noticed quickly in peripheral vision, faster than any other color. Scientists describe this as follows: "Lateral peripheral vision for detecting yellows is 1.24 times greater than for red.”

-- Source: Wikipedia

More Information

If you would like more information on the rules of the road, you can contact your local police, view the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook at www.novascotia.ca/sns/rvmlincence/handbook.asp, and visit www.schoolbussafety.ca

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