The province of Ontario is vowing to crack down on drivers who blow past school buses that are unloading passengers, announcing on Thursday that it will introduce legislation to increase fines and make it easier to use video evidence in court.
“The safety of our most precious resource, our children, is our government’s number one priority,” Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said in a release. “We intend to create a regulatory framework that will allow for more efficient enforcement and prosecution to keep our children safer.”
Yurek said that currently if a school bus driver can’t afford to take a day off work to testify the camera footage is inadmissible in court. The proposed changes would allow evidence from stop arm cameras to be used in court without the requirement of an additional witness.
“Once the infraction is caught, you no longer need to have the driver going to court, taking a day off work to go testify that so and so blew by the bus,” he said. “You can use the camera.”
Six jurisdictions currently have cameras on their bus stop signs.
“We fully support Minister Yurek and his government’s announcement of regulatory change to permit the use of school bus stop-arm cameras as evidence of passing a stopped school bus,” Rob Murphy, president of the Independent School Bus Operator Association, said in the release.
“We have been looking forward to this announcement for some years. This announcement will help ensure children across our province will continue to be transported safely to and from school.”
The government will also introduce a law that, if passed, would permit municipalities to add additional fines to drivers who break the law and pass a stopped school bus.
The changes would also allow municipalities to move prosecution of the cases from the provincial court system to their own existing local tribunals and all fines collected will stay within the community, Yurek said.
“They can utilize the proceeds from collecting these fines and put them towards ensuring that all buses have these cameras aboard,” he said.
Currently, drivers who pass a stopped school bus face a fine of up to $2,000 and receive six demerit points for a first offence.
Each subsequent offence can lead to a driver being fined up to $4,000, an additional six demerit points, and up to six months in jail.
News of the proposed crackdown came on the same day that a CityNews viewer submitted a video showing several cars driving past a bus that’s stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign clearly deployed.
Greg McKenna told CityNews he was driving south on Victoria Park Avenue, just north of St. Clair Avenue East, at around 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday when a school bus stopped in front of him to let children off after school.
McKenna stopped, but his dashcam captured half a dozen cars blatantly ignoring the stop sign and flashing red lights.
“Six vehicles failed to stop for the bus,” he told CityNews. “I slowly moved my car forward to block other vehicles from driving past the school bus.”
“Children and/or parents could have been seriously injured of killed if they crossed the street.”
It’s not the first time a CityNews viewer has tried to shed light on the issue.
Back in November 2016, Kevin Quinn captured several cars, and even a TTC bus, speeding past a stopped school bus in Scarborough.
With files from The Canadian Press
Correction: A previous version of this story suggested that more cameras were being added. The province has clarified that it is seeking to allow video evidence from existing cameras to be used in court without the requirement of additional witnesses and it will seek to increase fines for drivers who ignore bus stop signs.