SIX NATIONS — As students return to the classroom this week, drivers everywhere are being urged to take extra precaution to watch out for little ones walking to and from school.
In Ontario, officials estimate there are 800,000 children that travel to and from school by bus. Oftentimes those youth are energized and not paying attention, or tired and not paying attention. So make sure you always stop for a schoolboy when the lights are flashing. Drivers must stop for school buses when the lights are flashing and the arm is out. Failing to do so carries a $2000 fine and six demerit points – and possible jail time if it’s not your first offence.
Remember to watch your speed in school zones. Typically the area around a school will have posted speed limits of 30 km/hr or 40km/hr.
On Six Nations and other surrounding rural routes, students will be waiting for the school bus in the early morning hours starting at around 7 a.m. and be getting off the bus just after 3 p.m. on weekdays. Drivers in the area should watch their speed and keep aware of anyone walking on the side of the road during those times.
Students — you should also take care to wait for the bus at a safe distance from the road and not too close to the path of traffic. Officials recommend students keep a 10 foot safety zone around the sides and front of a bus. That’s about five giant steps. And remember not to approach the bus to board until it has come to a complete stop.
When it comes to drivers looking to pass the school bus — it’s best not to pass at all. Just take your time.
The Highway Traffic Act of Ontario indicates that when a school bus is stopped on the roadway with its red lights activated and “Stop” sign out, drivers must come to a complete stop in-front of and behind the bus. Motorists must not pass the stopped bus until the stop arm is retracted and the red lights are turned off. The owner of a vehicle can be charged if their vehicle fails to stop for a school bus even if they were not the driver.
Parents dropping off children at schools should be mindful to only park in drop-off areas and not stop in bus zones or other prohibited areas in the school parking lots or on the roadway. Doing so can create unnecessary traffic and unsafe conditions for students.
Watch for crossing guards and give them that extra minute to get students across the street safely. Pushing through an intersection because you are in a hurry or just impatient could have terrible consequences and is pretty much unnecessary.
Remember that you should never pass another vehicle in a school zone. Additionally you should never do a U-turn, 3 point turn or drive in reverse in a school zone. Doing so is unsafe and children walking to or from school are not anticipating those kind of maneuvers on the road.
Keep your speed slow and watch for children that may dart out into the parking lot, onto the road or towards the bus suddenly.