‘It’s a dangerous situation for those kids’: School bus driver frustrated over drivers ignoring stop signs

A frustrated school bus driver is speaking out about safety concerns he has for his young students, after seeing drivers cruise by his bus when his stop sign was activated.

In the rear-view mirror of his school bus, driver Reg Hitch can see his bus’s lights flashing and the stop sign activated – as well as vehicles zipping through and ignoring the warning signs to stop.

“It’s a dangerous situation for those kids,” Hitch told CTV News Winnipeg.

Hitch started taking videos of the incidents because he said too many drivers are going through the stop sign when elementary school children are getting on and off the bus.

“It started to eat away at me with the amount of people that were going through,” he said.

He said a section on South Pembina Highway near the Perimeter is one of the trouble spots.

“As I was loading the students on the bus – they were actually climbing up into the bus – three cars just whipped out from behind me and went straight through my stop sign,” he said, adding the problem is getting worse.

The Winnipeg Police Service tweeted this week it is getting numerous reports lately about safety around school buses.

The cost of running through a school bus stop sign is a $672 fine plus demerit points on your license.

It said in 2017 and 2018, no tickets were issued for running a school bus stop sign. There were 29 tickets handed out in 2019, and 22 tickets in 2020.

The number of tickets has jumped to 80 so far this year, most handed out within? the Winnipeg School Division.

The police said part of the increase can be tied to the fact that a standard reporting process between the service and school divisions was implemented in 2019.

Many city school buses now have cameras attached and that can be helpful in issuing tickets.

“When you have the video showing the offence, that goes a long way to ensure a conviction in court,” said Staff Sgt. Rod Hutter of the Winnipeg Police Service.

But there may be limits to gathering video of all infractions.

In the Pembina Trails School Division where Hitch drives, only half of the buses are equipped with cameras. Hitch’s bus is among those that is not.

“It’s about cost. Cameras are expensive and so it’s a matter of containing cost,” said Ted Fransen, the superintendent of the Pembina Trails School Division.

Fransen said the division does share the video evidence with police.

“We do encourage our drivers to report it, but our drivers are really, really busy driving the bus, keeping kids safe on the bus,” he said.

Area Councillor Janice Lukes said she would like as much video evidence shared with police as possible plus more deterrence measures.

“Really what I want is I want more enforcement,” she said. “If people don’t get it, the bus is lit up like a Christmas tree. Like, it’s pretty hard to miss.”

The police service said it will beef up enforcement in problem locations.

Hitch said it comes down to education, awareness, and respect from drivers.

“Somebody’s seriously is going to get injured here,” he said. “I’m more concerned about the children than myself.” 

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