BROCKVILLE – Trustees with the Upper Canada District School Board are calling on upper-tier municipal governments to take the next step to improve bus safety for students.
The board passed a motion at its December 15, 2021 meeting calling for municipalities to mandate the use of stop-arm cameras on school buses through the Provincial Offences Act.
Trustee Bill MacPherson (Ward Two) tabled the motion and spoke with first-hand knowledge of drivers illegally passing stopped school buses. He also drives a school bus in Lanark County near Perth and told the board that he had experienced six incidents in the past month himself, including on the morning of the board meeting.
“It was one of those moments that school bus drivers do not like to remember,” he said of the near miss when a vehicle ran the safety barrier. “On a scale of one-to-10, it was an eight on the danger level.”
Ontario passed legislation in 2020 that allowed for the installation of stop arm cameras on buses and that the footage can be used in court. This treats the stop arm cameras as being similar to stationary red light cameras that municipalities can use at intersections or speeding “hot spots.”
Upper-tier municipalities like the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, or the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville define through bylaw certain aspects of the Provincial Offences Act. A bylaw would have to pass by Counties Council vote for this legislation to go into effect in that jurisdiction.
“It is on the upper tier municipalities to enter into an enforcement agreement with the supplier of stop arm cameras to use,” he said. “Essentially what has happened is that one level of government has passed the responsibility on to another level government.”
He added that the only way of getting stop arm cameras on buses is to remind municipalities that the legislation gives them those tools.
Increased police enforcement can be requested MacPherson said, but there are resource challenges.
“We have over 700 school buses on the road for five-to-six hours a day,” he said. “You cannot ask police officers to follow those buses around looking for people that run stop arms on school buses.”
MacPherson explained that the typical school bus fatality happens in mornings, in good weather, with clear roads, and mostly children under nine years old are involved.
“It has been proven that 94 per cent of people who get a ticket from a stop arm camera do not repeat the offense,” he said. “It’s not a pandemic. It’s not an epidemic. However it is an accident waiting to happen. And I for one do not want to be that driver that is sitting there in the drivers seat having one of my children killed or badly injured by a stop light bandit.”
Trustee David McDonald (Ward Eight) questioned the jurisdiction of the board to ask for stop arm cameras to be installed as a school board does not legislate the Highway Traffic Act.
Speaking in support of the motion, UCDSB trustee board chair John McAllister said “I don’t care whose jurisdiction this is, it just needs to get done.”
Ward Five Trustee John McCrae also spoke in favour of the motion.
“It seems to me it’s our children and our responsibility to speak for them.”
Student trustees Bradford Ward and Eshal Ali, while unable to vote for the motion, both indicated their support for the motion as well.
The motion passed with only McDonald abstaining from the vote.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader