As a child, I can vividly remember my stomach churning as I saw commercials for back-to-school retailers. Suddenly, images of beaches and sun were replaced with overeager children sporting the latest funky backpacks with stern teachers standing overhead. Even today, I still get some discomfort watching these commercials, even though I cannot remember the last time I had the summer off. So although for some kids back-to-school time means trudging back to prison, and for some parents it means breaking out the champagne, back-to-school time also means a time when school buses are back on the roads. As such, I thought it would be helpful to review school bus safety.

It is important to note that over 800,000 students travel on school buses in Ontario daily, and for the most part, safely; fatalities are very rare and occur mostly during boarding or disembarking the bus, or crossing the street.

Drivers should be aware of these rules regarding school buses:

When driving on a road WITHOUT a median:

  • drivers travelling in both directions must stop for a 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.
    (Source: Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

Fines for ignoring school bus safety rules are steep and recidivists can possibly enjoy jail time. Additionally, vehicle owners could be charged even if they were not the ones driving. Also, drivers are encouraged to report drivers who ignore bus safety rules.

For all those who were not paying attention until now, here is the Cliff’s Notes version: think of the school bus as a stern teacher. Respect it, keep your distance, and remember that there are always tattle-tales.

Here’s to another safe school year!