In less than a week, the streets will be filled with big, yellow buses carrying some very precious cargo. While school buses are incredibly helpful for many families, they can add extra time to the morning and afternoon commutes if you’re following behind one. The temptation to pass a stopped bus can be great, especially if there are no children in view. What the law says, however, is that passing a stopped school bus with its stop sign out and red lights flashing is an offense that will land you a substantial fine, or worse.

According to provincial laws in Ontario, a first offence for failing to stop for a school bus can result in a fine from $400 to $2000, and six demerit points. Every offence thereafter will cost you between $1000 and $4000, an additional six demerit points, plus the possibility of a six month jail term. Add to that the very real possibility of injuring or even killing a child, and it certainly doesn’t seem worth it to save a few minutes of travel time.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation states drivers must stop at least 20 metres behind a stopped school bus, and oncoming traffic must stop and leave a “safe distance” for children to cross the road in front of the bus. Vehicles must remain stopped until the bus moves, or its lights are no longer flashing and the stop sign folds away.

If you see a driver disregarding this important law, please don’t hesitate to report it. If you can, note a few details about the event before filing a complaint. Recording the make and model of the vehicle, information about the driver, license plate number, as well as the time, date and location of the incident, will all be extremely helpful to police. Of course, always be sure to keep your own safety in mind, and never endanger yourself or others by driving distracted.

Parents and caregivers must also take an active role in keeping kids safe on the bus. Teach children to be especially cautious when getting on and off the bus, rather than trusting drivers to obey the rules. Sadly, the free-spirit of childhood must give way to precautionary action, as fear for the road may just be what saves a life.

Please keep our children in mind as the first day of school approaches, and make a plan to obey the rules of the road. Let’s work together to create a safe environment for students, and make 2016-17 a great school year!

For additional information and resources, check out the following links:

MTO Guide to School Bus Safety

MTO Driver Handbook- Stopping for School Buses

School Bus Safety from the Ottawa Police