Drivers will now lose licence if they illegally pass a school bus

The P.E.I. government has announced several new measures to prevent drivers from illegally passing school buses, in a province that already has the highest fines in the country for ignoring the law.

Fines already highest in Canada, and will be higher with more demerit points

As of Dec. 8, Island drivers will lose their licence if they illegally pass a school bus. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

P.E.I. drivers will now lose their licence for a time if they illegally pass a school bus, Transportation Minister Paula Biggar said in the legislature Thursday.

Drivers who ignore this law are not allowed on Island roads.— Paula Biggar

School bus drivers, parents and others have been calling for more action on illegal passing for years, ramping up efforts after some vehicles nearly hit children getting on and off buses this fall. 

Failing to stop for a school bus will also result in 12 demerit points and driver's licence suspension for three months, plus a $5,000 fine.

The new measures will take effect Dec. 8, Biggar said. 

Will need to take a course

"This means drivers who ignore this law are not allowed on Island roads," said Biggar.

Previously, the punishment was typically a fine of $1,000 and eight demerit points, with maximum fine of $5,000.

Those fines were already the highest in the country, according to a document tabled in the legislature by Biggar last November. The next highest were in Nova Scotia, ranging from $697.50 to $2,422.50. Second offences in Ontario could lead to a $4,000 fine and possible jail time.

For a suspended licence on P.E.I. to be reinstated, drivers will need to meet with highway safety officials, pay a $100 reinstatement fee and take a defensive driving course within six months of getting their licence back. 

Drivers will then be on probation, Biggar said, and if they receive any demerit points within a year of reinstatement, their licence will be suspended. 

'Strong solutions'

Biggar said the new measures are one of the recommendations of the standing committee on Infrastructure and Energy.

"We are taking all these recommendations seriously. We will be continuing to work with our police and education partners to implement strong solutions."

She added that government is looking at additional prevention and enforcement measures, including raising the demerit points for using a hand-held device while driving.

"We all have a role in ensuring our Island roads are safe and keeping children safe on their way to school and we will continue to work diligently to prevent the dangerous passing of school buses on P.E.I."

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