Feature Story Thursday April 12, 2012
School Bus Blues
Chilliwack RCMP look for errant drivers that put kids at risk
Craig Hill/Voice photos
A SD 33 bus leaves the Yale Road yard while still dark late last month.
ust before dawn on a chilly morning in late March, as School District 33 bus drivers warmed up their engines, Chilliwack RCMP Cst. Greg Dykstra was busy preparing for a shift riding on them, which is where the Voice caught up with him.
The big familiar orange buses amble along the road, occasionally stopping to disgorge kids. A “stop” sign flips out from the side, lights flash and drivers are supposed to stop. But some don't.
In BC it’s illegal to overtake or pass by a school bus that is stationary with its emergency red lights flashing or stop arm extended.
A simple concept, yet some motorists forget what’s written in their driver training manuals, creating a dangerous and sometimes deadly situation for kids.
RCMP Cst. Greg Dykstra wants drivers to obey the rules.
Bus drivers make reports to district supervisors, who in turn contact the RCMP and over the last year, the number of incidents around school buses in Chilliwack has increased.
In response to the higher numbers, police launched a novel traffic initiative last month aimed at educating drivers who don’t do what they’re supposed to around buses. This means that officers will be keeping a watchful eye while periodically riding the buses..
“We're going on the buses to generate some awareness with drivers on the road and let them know we're out there and that we're not always in marked or unmarked vehicles,” said Dykstra.
Motorists who don't pay attention can end up with a $167 ticket under Section 149 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
You’d think that having a cop on a school bus would mean you could hear a pin drop, but according to Dykstra, the kids get a kick out of him riding with them and have an opportunity to ask questions.
“They really enjoy that,” he said. “It gives them a chance to meet one of the officers, chat with us and sometimes they don't even know we're on the bus, they don't notice until they're getting off.”
Dykstra didn’t think he’d catch many drivers, as most know what to do when they encounter a school bus, but says there's always a few who break the law.
“I think there's going to be the odd motorist that is doing something wrong.”
Vehicles following a school bus must stop and wait until the flashing lights are turned off and the stop arm is retracted. If there’s a median or another type of barrier separating lanes, oncoming vehicles aren’t required to stop.
Parents are advised to follow these tips from the school board to improve their children’s safety while on the buses:
Some drivers may not agree with the fact that uniformed police officers are working incognito using school buses as a disguise, but if they adhere to the rules and do what they’re supposed to when following or approaching a school bus, they have nothing to worry about. It’s that simple.
We'll have more on this later when the statistics are released.
© Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice