Kitchener-Waterloo

Top traffic cop calls school bus cameras 'step in the right direction'

Waterloo region’s top traffic cop is throwing his support behind a proposal to equip school buses with cameras in an effort to catch and ticket drivers who illegally pass stopped buses.

Support comes days after report estimates drivers in region illegally pass buses 500-700 times each week

This week, Waterloo region police conducted a ride-along on two local school bus routes. On the two routes alone, police charged three people with failing to stop for a school bus – and six more for distracted driving. (iStock )

Waterloo region's top traffic cop is throwing his support behind a proposal to equip school buses with cameras in an effort to catch and ticket drivers who illegally pass stopped buses.

"I think it would go a long way and I think it's a definite step in the right direction," Staff Sergeant Jim Strand of Waterloo Region Police Service's traffic division told the CBC's The Morning Edition on Thursday.

Strand's support for the for the plan comes just days after Waterloo region's head of student transportation called for local school buses to be equipped with cameras, following a report that estimates 500-700 drivers in the region fail to stop for buses each week.

This week, Waterloo region police conducted a ride-along on two local school bus routes. What they found only underscored the findings by the region's student transportation service. On the two routes alone, police charged three people with failing to stop for a school bus – and six more for distracted driving.

Drivers caught 'every single time'

Strand said there isn't a single ride-along when he doesn't see people failing to stop. "Every time we go out," he said. "Every single time."

The cost of outfitting a school bus with seven cameras and a motion sensor would come to about $16,000 per bus, the region's student transportation head Benoit Bourgault estimated Monday, saying the idea is still in the early stages. (CBC)

During a ride-along, an officer will sit on the bus and record the license plates of any vehicles that fail to stop for it when required. Another option is for that officer to radio to other officers in the area who will then pull over and charge the offending driver.

Cameras would make tracking such offences easier, but the plan isn't cheap. The cost of outfitting each bus with seven cameras and a motion sensor would come to about $16,000 each, student transportation head Benoit Bourgault estimated Monday, who said the idea is still in the early stages.

But while the region alone would be responsible for footing the bill, without the help of the school boards or the province, the hope is that traffic tickets will cover the plan's hefty price tag and that the cameras will eventually pay for themselves.

Strand said that shouldn't be difficult to achieve. "The camera's doing all the work; it's photographing the offence. All the police would do is review the video and issue a certificate."

The officer acknowledges that sometimes drivers simply don't realize they have to stop. But if the technology can make children safer, he says it's worth it.

"People are distracted," Strand said. "They're distracted with their life, what's going on in their day and they don't tend to be thinking about the here and now."

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