Bus driver wants action after young passenger nearly struck by vehicle
'How valuable do you think a child's life is? That's how serious the matter is'
The bus driver who watched his young passenger nearly get struck by a Jeep this week says the P.E.I. government needs to take measures immediately to deter drivers from whizzing past stopped school buses.
"How quickly do they need to act on it? Yesterday," said Ralph Coughlin. "How valuable do you think a child's life is? That's how serious the matter is.... There's got to be something, a deterrent, to keep these people from going through our lights."
Coughlin was stopped on the Trans-Canada Highway in Albany, P.E.I., Tuesday morning, picking up six-year-old Koral Lindstedt, who has to cross the highway to get on his bus.
It's just scary, mind boggling, how somebody could do that.— Ralph Coughlin, Bus Driver
He says his red lights were flashing and his stop sign was out, with a line of vehicles stopped behind him.
But as Lindstedt started crossing the highway, Coughlin noticed the white Jeep Cherokee heading toward her wasn't slowing down.
"I slid my side window open and waved to the Jeep to stop, but she kept coming through," he said. He said the driver realized Koral was there "at the last second."
"[She] swerved to the right into a driveway and back out onto the highway, and carried on up the highway.
"It's just scary, mind boggling, how somebody could do that."
Cameras 'would make a 100 per cent difference'
Coughlin says he's described what happened to RCMP, who are searching for the Jeep's driver. But he says everything happened so fast, that he wasn't able to see the vehicle's licence plate number.
He questions why his school bus, and most others, aren't equipped with video cameras.
"It'd make a 100 per cent difference," said Coughlin. "We'd have somebody arrested by now that actually committed the crime.... And I think it would definitely help [deter drivers] if they realized there was a foolproof method to catch them. It would definitely work."
We have put a lot of time, effort, and energy into modifying the cameras.— Dave Gillis, Public Schools Branch
But P.E.I.'s Public Schools Branch says at this point, the province hasn't come up with that "foolproof method" to catch drivers, and deter others.
Back in 2011, the government installed video cameras on 10 school buses.
But four years later, it was revealed through a string of government emails obtained by CBC, that the cameras produced grainy images, and were ineffective at capturing licence plate numbers, drivers' identities, and other evidence like whether the red lights and stop sign on the bus were properly engaged when the vehicle passed.
Cameras still don't work: Public Schools Branch
Dave Gillis, the PSB's leader of corporate services, says since then, officials have been trying — unsuccessfully — to come up with a better approach.
"We have put a lot of time, effort, and energy into modifying the cameras, and upgrading, to try to get to the point where we can get that prosecution at the end of it. More prosecutions means more media coverage, means the word gets out there more, and potentially deters more people, and wakes people up," said Gillis.
"But the cameras, as we have them now, aren't going to do that."
Gillis says in early November, school and transportation officials are planning to meet to "explore new modern technologies" and to look at what other provinces are using to tackle the problem.
A government standing committee is also meeting next week to discuss various approaches being considered — from requiring front licence plates on P.E.I. vehicles to imposing harsher penalties like roadside licence suspensions.