Too many close calls spurs school district to raise awareness
From November 2017 to November 2018, five of School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap) school buses were hit by other motorists with a sixth incident on January 25, 2019!
This upswing comes after years of rarely any accidents at all. On top of that SD83 bus drivers have been reporting a rise in the number of drivers passing school buses when the red lights are flashing and other near misses.
It was decided to keep track for the month of January and in just 19 school days a total of 32 red light runners were reported (three in the Armstrong area; seven in Enderby; one in North Shuswap, eight in Salmon Arm; two in Silver Creek; and 11 in the Tappen/Blind Bay/White Lake area).
With these scary statistics in hand, and with tragic accidents happening in other areas of the country, it was decided SD83 needed to raise awareness around the importance of being safe around school buses!
Drivers need to be alert and extra cautious when driving around school buses, explains SD83 Transportation Manager Andrea Kathrein. To help get the message out there SD83 is running a school bus safety campaign from February 18 to March 1.
“Red Flashing Lights on a school bus indicate that a child is either arriving or departing from the school bus. Children are often unpredictable and may run out from in front of or behind the bus. We need your help to keep our kids safe,” she explains.
To help raise awareness SD83 will be running two weeks of radio commercials expressing the importance of stopping for a school bus with red lights activated (We Stop – You Stop), asking drivers not to rush the bus, and to ensure they are not driving distracted around a school bus!
There will also be coffee cup sleeves at participating restaurants with “to go” mugs at 19 locations throughout the district.
Because of concerns with liability, several companies (including Tim Hortons, Starbucks and A&W) are not able to support the district with the coffee sleeves, however, they have asked for posters to display at their locations and discussions are continuing on how they might support the campaign in October during School Bus Safety Week.
She also added that “red light runner” cameras will become normal practice on SD83 school buses. “In September 2018, three of our new buses came equipped with the red light runner cameras, and we are looking into adding them to another dozen of our newer buses.”
Local RCMP detachments are also supporting the district in this campaign in various ways including riding along on the bus.
As always, SD83 will continue to support students and bus drivers through training on acceptable and safe school bus safety procedures and protocol.
Another campaign is planned for October 2019 during School Bus Safety Week.