Vehicles zooming past school buses that are loading/unloading children is unfortunately a common occurrence.
Robert Warkentin, Director of Transportation, says this is an ongoing problem in our community and surrounding communities.
"It is a regular occurrence within our division, and when I talk to my counterparts around us, it’s not unique to us here in the area,” he says. “It's common across the province. It’s very concerning and very dangerous as well.”
Warkentin speculates the problem is a mix of people not knowing the rules, and people driving absentmindedly.
"I think there's a bit of this inattentiveness. Are we really paying close attention? Are we in a hurry? I think all those factors kind of play into why we drive the way we do.”
Most of the buses in Hanover are equipped with cameras to capture people speeding through.
Warkentin estimates that 70 of the 85 buses currently have cameras.
He says when a vehicle runs through the bus’s stop sign, the bus driver reports it and they take a look at the video to see if it will be useful for RCMP.
“You have to be able to read the plate. It's got to fit the criteria of something that the RCMP can work with,” he says. “If it checks all the boxes, we file a report and send the video clip.”
Once they do that, it is out of Hanover’s hands.
“It goes to the RCMP and then they issue the ticket and we lose track of where it goes from there.”
He notes that in past conversations with Steinbach RCMP, anything that they have given to RCMP has had a very high success rate as far as convictions.
Warkentin believes the fine is around $680 for going through a stop light on a bus.
He says when it comes to driving around school buses, we need to be extremely cautious, as these are vehicles filled with young children.
“We're doing about 1,000 pickups every morning within our school division, so there are lots of buses out on the road doing their stops. And if you're a commuter driving your regular route and you come into that bus regularly, you know it's going to stop.”
He says the buses are quite consistent with their timing, so if you run into a bus stop on your commute to work and it bothers you, just adjust your schedule slightly.
“Leave 5 minutes earlier or 5 minutes later. Ultimately, we just want everyone to take great care when we're picking up and dropping off our students.”
He says the highways are the worst for people ignoring bus stops.
“Hwy. 59, 12, 52... people are going higher speeds. It's 100km/h, they're probably doing more,” he says. “When we're in more of an urban setting, or even out in the country on the gravel roads, speeds aren't as high. But if you're driving those big roads pay attention.”
When the lights are flashing and the stop sign is out, remember to stop.
“It is a traffic light. Don't try and race through it because we're picking up students. These could be your kids, someone else's kids, your nieces, your nephews. We want safety on our bus stops so that everybody gets to and from school safely.”
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Retired school bus driver, Olivia Leippi, shares the story of her scariest experience as a bus driver.
She had turned on the lights and pulled out the stop sign getting ready to drop off a five-year-old and seven-year-old at their house.
Her stop sign was on the left, and a car decided to pass on the right.
“I saw the car coming, the left wheels still on pavement and the right wheels in the ditch,” she says. “I grabbed him (the student) by the backpack, yanked him back because he was on the bottom step already. The little girl behind him, his sister, she fell on her butt and zoom! This car went by, braked, turned, and was gone.”
The kids were fine, but Leippi was anxious for the rest of the day.
“My hands shook the entire run because of the fear in me. And I could tell stories, I could write a book.”
She says when you see a bus, you should know to slow down.
“Your instinct should be ‘oh a big load of kids.’ Like, there should be something happening in people's brains to realize these are kids.”
She asks the community to be cautious and have patience with school buses.
“Think of your child. Think of your own child or grandchild getting on or getting off, because there have been so very many close calls.”
With files from Corny Rempel