Island entrepreneurs pitch product to stop drivers passing stopped school buses

Two Island entrepreneurs were in Charlottetown on Thursday to present to the standing committee on infrastructure and energy about their invention, which aims to help keep students safe when crossing the roads getting on and off of school buses.

'That was where we came up with a barrier, a physical bar that would extend across the highways'

Dan MacDonald, with MacWorth Industries, says they have been working on the concept of the highway safety prevention bar since 2016. (Submitted by MacWorth Industries)

Two Island entrepreneurs were in Charlottetown on Thursday to present to the standing committee on infrastructure and energy about their invention, which aims to help keep students safe when crossing the roads getting on and off of school buses.

They call it a highway safety prevention bar — a pole that can extend off the back of the bus with flashing lights and a camera to try and ensure motorists stop for the students crossing.

"With a driver making an illegal pass like that, they have the protection of airbag, seatbelts, steel frame around them where a child has nothing," said Dan MacDonald with MacWorth Industries.

"If we can give one ounce of protection to our children on these highways, it's worth every penny and we're just trying to solve that problem happening here on P.E.I."

The highway safety prevention bar would stick out into traffic when extended by the bus driver and be at eye-level for most drivers. (Submitted by MacWorth Industries)

MacDonald and Wayne Ellsworth have been working on the concept since 2016.

Ellsworth noticed a number of drivers illegally pass stopped buses and the two began working on a possible solution.

"That was where we came up with a barrier, a physical bar that would extend across the highways and capture a picture and a video of the person passing by and also blocking any illegal passing that may take place," MacDonald said.

It mounts onto the back bumper of the school bus and a plastic bar can extend out more than two metres (six feet).

The pole contains flashing LED lights and would also have an integrated camera system installed inside.

Wayne Ellsworth and Dan MacDonald were in Charlottetown on Thursday to speak at the standing committee looking into the issue of school bus safety. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

There are different types of video recording and MacDonald says the video could be paused at individual frames to pinpoint exact moments when drivers pass the buses illegally.

"Ours is on the back of the bumper and that is a lot of where the danger zones are, people passing from behind," MacDonald said.

"So to have an arm that extends out and barricades that road so that people will not pass, or make them think twice before passing a school bus, especially if they are on tape, especially if we have a picture of them and especially if they are going to put some damage to their car."

MacDonald says it would be plastic and deflect so that damage to vehicles that pass illegally would be minimal.

The two entrepreneurs were showing a video of how their highway safety prevention bar would work on the back of a school bus. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The legislative committee heard from people from across the Island and discussed various approaches being considered — from requiring front licence plates on P.E.I. vehicles to imposing harsher penalties like roadside licence suspensions. 

MacDonald said their product could be pilot project ready in three months and estimates they would cost around $5,000 per unit.

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With files from Steve Bruce