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Be cautious around school buses

Inga urges drivers to be vigilant around school buses. - Benjamin Yong
Inga urges drivers to be vigilant around school buses.
— image credit: Benjamin Yong

Now that summer has drawn to a close, kids have returned to school—which means school buses have returned to the road, and drivers need to be careful, said School District 62 bus driver Inga.

For 23 years she has picked children up and dropped them of in the Sooke area, and Inga said it amazes her how drivers fail to observe the proper road etiquette year after year.

“The stop sign comes (out) and all the lights are flashing, and we have people that actually go right through it,” she said.

Traffic should treat the stop sign on a school bus the same way as one at an intersection—bring your vehicle to a complete stop and do not move or attempt to pass until it is safe to do so. In this case, after all the children have completely entered or departed the bus.

“It’s a law, in fact they tell us to write down the license plates of people that do go through the lights.”

Besides possibly injuring a child or worse, failure to stop for a school bus will also hurt your pocketbook—to the tune of $167 and three points added to your license.

It’s pretty hard to miss the modern-day school bus. Most are outfitted with a lot of features to make sure they stay visible when making stops: bright blinking LEDs are mounted front and rear and on the stop sign, and the newest fleet models get a “safety bar” on the front bumper that extends outwards to ensure kids don’t walk too close to the front of the bus and out of the sightline of the driver.

Even with all these gadgets, close calls still happen “way too frequent(ly),” said Inga.

“In a day for the whole district, I would say (people pass improperly) at least once a day, probably more.”

Another concern for bus drivers is children being left unattended at stops.

“In the mornings out here in this area it’s nice if parents come and wait at the bus stops with the little ones.”

Inga said this is mostly for the primary-aged kids, and is especially important during the winter when the sky is “pitch dark”  during pickups that start at 7:15 a.m. There should also be someone waiting for younger children when they’re dropped off after school, otherwise drivers are not allowed to let them off and instead have to call the school to see if they can locate a guardian. If not, the students have to be driven back to the school.

One final request that Inga had for parents concerns mainly those that have kids attending Poirier Elementary. Anyone who has driven on Throup Road knows how narrow the road is, particularly in the stretch leading up to the school’s parking lot.

“We have a lot of trouble with congestion of people picking up the students and the buses get all clogged up and it’s hard to get through here.”

She recommends that drivers, if possible, park at the lower gravel lot at the bottom of the hill and walk up to the school.

“If they could do that, that would be wonderful.”

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