School bus drivers in Alberta will need to undergo mandatory safety training, and buses will be fitted with strobe lights to improve visibility after a provincial safety review.
Premier Ed Stelmach called for the independent review after two fatal school bus crashes, one in Rimbey in September and the other in Calgary in 2007.
The province announced Tuesday that it will implement the 10 strategies recommended by the review, which looked at factors involved in school bus collisions from 2001 to 2006.
It will cost $7.5 million over two years to:
- Make flashing amber lights, and strobe lights mandatory on school buses.
- Retrofit buses with reflective tape.
- Develop consistent hiring criteria for drivers.
The strobe lights, which cost about $200 each, mount on the roof and send a blast of light into the sky every few seconds to alert other drivers of a school bus's presence, especially in fog or other conditions of limited visibility.
The report did not recommend mandatory seatbelts on school buses, noting that previous studies have shown they do not necessarily increase safety, and could put students at greater risk of injury in some cases.
The report also pointed out no Canadian provinces or federal safety standards require seatbelts on school buses.
Majority of school bus crashes caused by other drivers
Research included in the provincial report showed almost six out of every 10 school bus collisions are caused by other drivers.
In September, Jennifer Dawn Noble died after a gravel truck slammed into an SUV that had stopped behind her school bus, and then into the rear right corner of the bus.
The crash happened in heavy fog outside Rimbey, 140 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.
The driver of the gravel truck was charged with driving carelessly and driving too fast for road conditions, while the school bus driver was charged with failing to unload and load at a safe place or time under the school bus operation regulations.
In October 2007, Kathelynn Occena, 9, was killed when her school bus crashed into a parked gravel truck on Calgary's busy Crowchild Trail.
The school bus driver pleaded guilty in September to a charge of careless driving and was fined $2,300.