SOUTHERN ALBERTA: You can be euphemistic and call it moments of poor judgement, arrogance or lack of care-and-attention. Or, you can call them what they really are -- disregard for the Traffic Safety Act, which may take the life of a child.
The Transportation Coordinator for Palliser Schools called the Country 95 News room Thursday, to ask for help with what he admits has become a fairly common, and potentially deadly, occurrence. As if one incident isn't bad enough, Chris Pelletier noted his bus drivers had to deal with three separate incidents that morning -- all of them near misses -- where drivers didn't stop for school buses with flashing lights and an extended Stop arm.
The first incident happened about 7:45, as a school bus driver from Picture Butte, was picking up children on highway-25 between Iron Springs and Turin. She had stopped her west bound bus and engaged the bus's red flashing lights and Stop arm and two cattle liners had stopped behind the school bus. A mother and her young son and daughter were on the side of the road across from the bus. Pelletier says at that point, just as the little girl was about to cross the highway to board the bus an east-bound cattle liner went right past the bus, doing highway speed, about 100-kmph. The mother actually had to run out and grab her daughter and pull her back off the road so she didn't get hit". Pelletier continued the story, "Our bus driver is sitting there, just helpless - she's banging on the horn and trying to get the child to go back".
The second incident happened on highway-512, also known as the Jail Road, where two vehicles flew by a Coaldale school bus that was stopped to pick up a student.
The third incident happened on highway-845, just five-kilometres north of Coaldale. Pelletier says, "It was another situation where a mother was waiting with a child, to make sure the child got on the bus safely. In this case, a cube van passed the bus after the amber lights had been engaged to warn that the bus was stopping for a pick up and the van went around the bus, because the driver didn't want to wait".
According to Pelletier, RCMP are looking into the incidents and he believes they have been able to identify the driver of the cattle liner in the first incident and a company logo on the van involved in the third case has also been identified.
The Traffic Safety Act stipulates fines for failing to reduce speed when approaching a school bus (either from behind or in front), passing a school bus before the bus driver indicates it's safe to do so, or passing a school bus with flashing red lamps, will cost you $345. The fine for failing to stop before approaching a school bus that has alternately flashing red lamps is $402.
There is a consequence far worse than a fine. Pelletier says, "Please slow down -- after you injure or kill one of our children, you can't say "sorry" -- it's gone too far then". He goes on to remind you, "Take the time to realize that there's little people getting on and off these buses and if you hit them, that's something you're going to have to live with forever and the tragedy you're going to cause for their family is just unbearable".