During a meeting on December 15, trustees with the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) passed a motion to call on upper-tier municipal governments to mandate the use of stop-arm cameras on school buses through the Provincial Offences Act.
The motion was tabled by Trustee Bill MacPherson (Ward Two), who noted how some drivers will illegally pass stopped school buses, putting children in danger. MacPherson also drives a school bus in Lanark County near Perth, and he reported that six such illegal passes have occurred to him as he driving his school bus in the past month alone, including the morning of the board meeting.
“It was one of those moments that school bus drivers do not like to remember,” he said. “On a scale of one-to-10, it was an eight on the danger level.”
In 2020, Ontario passed legislation to allow stop-arm cameras to be installed on buses, and to allow the footage to be used in court. This is not mandated. Upper-tier municipalities must implement the legislation through local bylaws before it can go into effect. This means that the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) would need to approve a resolution demanding the camera installation, as well as organize a supplier for the devices.
“It is on the upper-tier municipalities to enter into an enforcement agreement with the supplier of stop-arm cameras to use,” MacPherson said. “Essentially what has happened is that one level of government has passed the responsibility on to another level government.”
Stop-arm cameras are the most effective method of deterring illegal passing, because although increased police support can be requested, they cannot be everywhere.
“We have over 700 school buses on the road for five-to-six hours a day,” MacPherson said. “You cannot ask police officers to follow those buses around looking for people that run stop-arms on school buses.”
MacPherson also said that the typical school bus fatality happens in mornings, in good weather, with clear roads, and mostly involving children under nine years old.
“It has been proven that 94 per cent of people who get a ticket from a stop-arm camera do not repeat the offence,” 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 driver’s seat having one of my children killed or badly injured by a stop light bandit.”
Trustee David McDonald (Ward Eight) questioned the jurisdiction of a school board to ask for stop-arm cameras to be installed as part of the Highway Traffic Act. UCDSB Chair John McAllister said, “I don’t care whose jurisdiction this is, it just needs to get done.”
The motion passed with only McDonald abstaining from the vote.