School bus drivers want higher penalties for infractions against safety rules

FORT ST. JOHN – School District 60 school bus district driver Cindy Dettling, who has been driving kids to school for 35 years, on and off, has begun a campaign to raise fines for driving past a stopped school bus with its lights flashing.

Currently the fine for driving through a school bus stopped with its lights flashing is $168, plus 3 demerit points.

Compared to higher fines for what she feels are less dangerous violations, Dettling thinks it’s time for change.

“If you can disobey a construction sign, and get a fine that’s $196, then surely it should be more than that when you’re wilfully driving through a light when you know there are kids on the road,” said Dettling.

On August 27, SD60 bus drivers set up Safe Stop information sites around Fort St. John, to try to get the word out about safety rules around school buses and to raise awareness about the fines.

Dettling and others conducted an informal survey of school bus stops last year, and in 50 days observed 51 infractions, she says.

“It’s a terrible situation, people just aren’t paying attention. I think they’re not realizing that just because students are getting on the bus on the right hand side of the bus, where the ditches are, just about half of them have to cross the highway to get there, they live on the other side of the road.”

The problem has been increasing with the population of the region, she says.

“We’ve got way more people on the road now, bus routes have increased, the highways are crazy right now. So we have to start showing attention and try to get the word out,” Dettling said.

Dettling is pushing to have the fine raised to $368 and 6 demerit points, which is the same penalty as for ‘driving without due care and attention’.

She has sent letters to Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm, the Premier’s office, Ministries of Transportation and Infrastructure and Education, theSuperintendent of Motor Vehicles, the Minister of Justice, as well as Fort St. John city council.

“I think the best thing we can do is urge drivers to pay attention to the lights, to show some patience. We’re not stopping the busses and holding them up out of spite . . . I know there are some drivers that think we’re taking too long to get going again, once they see the doors shut . . . it’s against the law for us to get going before the kids have been seated.”

In an email to Northeast News, a representative from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure wrote: “Student safety is a priority and we appreciate that media and the public are raising awareness about the law . . . While there are no immediate plans to raise this fine, government periodically reviews the Motor Vehicle Act’s fines to ensure they are set at the appropriate levels.

Source: Northeast News