As students return to school next week, members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are reminding motorists to always maintain an acute sense of awareness and be prepared for the unexpected when driving near schools and in neighbourhoods where school buses and school kids are present.
In accordance with the Highway Traffic Act, motorists encountering a stopped school bus that has its overhead red signal-lights flashing (the stop arm does not need to be extended), shall stop before reaching the bus and shall not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead red signal-lights have stopped flashing. This applies whether you are meeting or following a school bus, and includes multi-lane roads. The only exception is when driving on a road with a median – traffic coming from the opposite direction is not required to stop.
Penalties include a fine of $490 plus six demerit points for a first offence and range from $1000 to $4000, plus six demerit points and possible jail time up to six months for each subsequent offence upon conviction.
In Ontario, school-bus drivers and other witnesses can report vehicles that have illegally passed a school bus. Vehicle owners can also be charged if their vehicle illegally passes a stopped school bus, regardless of who was driving the vehicle at the time.
Drivers are also encouraged to:
• Take extra care when driving by parked cars.
• Be aware of school zones and reduce your speed.
• Travel through intersections slowly.
• Be patient as children cross the road.
• Obey crossing guard instructions.
• Make eye contact with the children wanting to cross at the intersection.
• Obey all bus signals and never try to pass when they are stopped.
• Give yourself extra travel time.
Drivers should also be prepared to yield to student pedestrians and cyclists. Parents of students who will be walking or cycling to school are encouraged to speak with their children about the rules of the road that apply to them.
Let’s all do our part to ensure children arrive at school and back home safely.
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