By Kim Hutchison
The Government of Alberta is implementing a 10-point action plan for improving school bus safety across the province.
The action plan follows the recommendations in Ensuring the Safety of Our Children: A Report on School bus safety in Alberta, a report that looked at factors involved in school bus collisions over a five-year period.
The plan, which will include making flashing amber light and strobe lights mandatory, retrofitting buses with side and rear reflective tape, standardizing hiring criteria for drivers and developing a standardized route risk assessment checklist, plus an additional 5 recommendations, will cost $7.5 million over a two year period.
“This plan in very much needed,” said Wolf Creek Public Schools super intendant, Larry Jacobs. “This has been discussion for months – if not years – so it’s nice to finally see a document that confirms what needs to be done”.
All school buses in Ponoka currently meet the provinces safety plan. The final recommendation is one Jacobs feels needs to be paid more attention to.
“We are really happy to hear about the last recommendation stating it is recommended that a comprehensive communications plan be developed by Alberta Transportation and Alberta Education to increase awareness about school bus safety and to help ensure all drivers on the road are aware of the existing laws related to sharing the road with school buses,” he said. “This is so important. The Province of Alberta has a minimum of 3,000 flybys – flybys are a name given to a driver who passes a bus that is clearly stopped on the road with red lights flashing – a year. Bus drivers in Ponoka have reported that, on some routes – not all – there are 20 to 30 flybys per month,” he said.
The report concentrates on school bus visibility and training for bus drivers, and also emphasizes the outstanding safety record of school buses and reminds motorists to obey traffic laws when school buses are stopped and the red lights are flashing. Research included in the report shows almost six out of every 10 school bus collisions are caused by other drivers.
“It’s wonderful that there is a media campaign stressing the importance of this message,” he said.
To view the school bus safety report, go to www.transportation.alberta.ca/3112.htm. The report does not recommend seat belts on all school buses. It noted that in accordance with federal safety standards, no Canadian province requires seat belts on all school buses based on previous studies that suggest, due to the design of school buses, seat belts would not necessarily increase safety and could possibly put students at greater risk of injury.
To view the 10 recommendations in their entirety visit http://www.alberta.ca