'They could be killed': Almonte dad setting sights on drivers speeding past kids' school bus

A father in Almonte, Ont., is installing cameras outside his home in an effort to catch drivers who keep racing past his children's stopped school bus.

Passing stopped school bus can earn careless motorists hefty fines, demerit points

Jeffrey Gagne is installing cameras outside his Almonte, Ont., home in an effort to catch careless drivers who he says are putting his children's lives at risk. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

A father in Almonte, Ont., is installing cameras outside his home in an effort to catch drivers who keep racing past his children's stopped school bus.

Jeffrey Gagne and his family live on County Road 29 in Mississippi Mills. Gagne said since they moved there about two and a half years ago, he's witnessed cars speeding past the bus about eight times while his children were boarding, even though its red lights were flashing and stop arm extended.

He's especially fearful of what could happen at drop-off, when his kids must cross the busy road to return home.

"My biggest concern is my children's safety," Gagne said."One day I'm not going to be there, my child will be hit and worst case they could be killed."

Gagne is also working to get the speed limit on the highway in front of his home reduced. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

It's gotten to the point where Gagne sometimes stands in the middle of the road to prevent motorists from passing the stopped bus.

"It brings out a lot of anger," said Gagne, who added he's been in touch with the township about getting the current speed limit of 80 km/h reduced to 60 km/h.

Almonte parents concerned about children boarding school bus on busy road

CBC News Ottawa

6 days ago
Almonte resident Jeffrey Gagne says he worries for his children’s safety when they board the school bus on County Rd. 29, where the speed limit is 80 km/h. OPP Const. Joe Tereschuk says police have increased patrols along the route. 1:19

'Not worth the risk'

In Ontario, the fine for passing a school bus while its stop arm is activated and lights are flashing is $400 to $2,000, plus six demerit points for a first offence. Each additional offence earns a fine of $1,000 to $4,000, plus six more demerit points. 

OPP Const. Joe Tereschuk said police have increased patrols in the area around Gagne's home, and on Tuesday Lanark County installed a speed tracker in front of his property.

This sign and these flashing lights mean children are boarding or disembarking the school bus, and traffic in both directions must come to a complete stop. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

Tereschuk reminded motorists to slow down, and to always stop for school buses while children are getting on and off.

"It's not worth the risk to try and save yourself a minute or two," he cautioned.

Difficult to monitor

Gagne is hoping his cameras will also help police in their effort to ticket those motorists who are breaking the law.

Pierre Ranger has been fighting for cameras mounted on school bus stop arms ever since his brother Adam Ranger was killed in February 2000 while crossing a highway near his home near Mattawa, Ont.

Ranger said the situation in front of Gagne's home sounds similar to the one that claimed his brother's life. 

Adam Ranger was five when he was killed by a truck that failed to stop for his school bus outside his home near Mattawa, Ont., in 2000. (Courtesy Timiskaming Road Safety Coalition)

Stop arm cameras have already helped Ottawa police nab careless drivers here. There are currently six cameras installed on school buses operated by four different bus companies, police said.

The cameras, along with regular patrols, enabled Ottawa police to issue 135 tickets in 2019. Despite the pandemic, they handed out another 111 tickets last year. Prior to the cameras, police issued only about 35 tickets a year.