The Nova Scotia School Boards Association is raising the alarm about a dangerous trend involving school buses and other motorists.
So far this school year, there have been more than 1,100 incidents where drivers failed to stop for a school bus that had its red lights flashing and stop sign deployed.
"We are concerned with the number of violations that are happening in a relatively small populated area," said Trish Smith of the association.
"We don't have thousands of buses on the road. We transport roughly 82,000 students a day across the province. So 1,100 in a couple of months is significant."
Drivers caught on video
The association has posted two short videos to YouTube showing incidents in southwestern Nova Scotia earlier this school year. In each case, the video shows a stopped bus with lights flashing and stop sign deployed. A pickup truck drives right past the bus in each case.
The Tri-County School Board, which covers Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne counties, used what are described as "floater" buses to make these videos.
Drivers on these routes had noticed the problem escalating and requested the special, camera-equipped buses to catch offenders. The cameras can capture traffic in both directions and provide authorities with images of the driver, the vehicle and the licence plate.
Few tickets and warnings
In most cases, however, it is hard get all the elements necessary to prove the offence, given most school buses are not equipped with cameras and it's tough to catch the licence plate numbers of offending vehicles.
So far during this school year, RCMP, which patrol most rural areas in this province, have issued 28 tickets and 15 warnings.
A first offence under the Motor Vehicle Act for driving past a stopped school bus carries a $410 fine and six demerit points on the driver's licence. For subsequent offences, the fine increases to $1272.50.
Drivers can even be charged for passing a bus that has its amber warning lights flashing. The fine for failing to pass with caution carries a $295 fine.
"You can be caught and you can seriously injure or kill a child," Smith said. "So those two pieces together should be deterrent enough to just stop for the school bus."