Sooke launches new school bus cameras to catch vehicles that ignore stop signals
Just three full days into a new school year and already the Sooke School District has caught nine cars blowing by stopped school buses.
The cars were caught by the school district's new 'Red Light Runner' cameras, which have been installed on 27 buses out of a total 47 in the fleet.
The cameras are mounted on the outside of the bus, under the driver's side window.
“It’s to catch the vehicles that run through our red lights when we are either loading or unloading our students,” said Tracey Syrota, Transportation Manager with School District 62.
“Really, it’s unfortunate that the public hasn’t caught on to the fact that not stopping for a school bus could lead to an injury or [in the] worst case scenario the death of a student,” said Syrota.
“They just still don’t get it."
Vehicles must come to a complete stop when a school bus engages its red flashing lights and stop signs. If drivers are caught not stopping, they could face some very steep fines.
For a first offence, drivers will receive a $368 ticket. From there, each subsequent offense will add penalty points to an offender's driving record. If a particularly stubborn driver is caught blowing through enough signals, they could face a fine of $368 plus $8,160 in points for their tenth offence.
Ken Hales, a retired RCMP Officer who now drives a school bus for the district, thinks the cameras are long overdue and is constantly surprised by what he sees out on his routes.
“Last year, I had a person pass the bus from behind,” said Hales. “He had to pass both stop signs and he did it all in front of a crosswalk.”
He went on to say drivers take their job very seriously and all see themselves as the protectors of these children.
Hales says his job is to get them to school safely and return them home to their families at the end of their school day. He calls the children on-board his "precious cargo".
Dianna Seaton, Vice Chair of the Sooke School District, says the implementation of the Red Light Runner cameras was a unanimous decision when the topic came up with the board.
“With increased traffic in the West Shore, this has turned into a major issue,” said Seaton.
“We saw this as an opportunity to make sure that our students and staff are safe.”
When a driver is caught on-camera running the signals, the district will be filing a report with the West Shore RCMP and forwarding them the video evidence of the offence.
Cst. Nancy Saggar, West Shore RCMP, considers the cameras to be a fantastic investigative tool when reviewing these infractions.
“We’ve often gotten reports from drivers where they give a description of the vehicle and sometimes a partial licence plate number,” said Saggar. “This way we will have a record of the plate number and video can always be presented as evidence in court so that helps us long term as well.”
The remaining 20 buses of the school district's fleet will be outfitted with cameras in the coming months.
According to Sooke School District, approximately 4200 students ride a school bus daily with a total of 50 full time and part-time drivers.