PEI

Mother calls for stiffer penalties for vehicles passing school buses after close call

A mother in Cardigan, P.E.I., is sounding the alarm about drivers passing school buses when students are getting on and off, after her son had a close call this week.

'This could be a kid's life'

Mandy Acorn watches her son Harlan get on the bus to school. Earlier this week, a vehicle sped by the bus as it was stopped to let Harlan off after school. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A mother in Cardigan, P.E.I., is sounding the alarm about drivers passing school buses when students are getting on and off, after her son had a close call this week.

Mandy Acorn says the incident involving her son Harlan happened Tuesday afternoon on the busy Seven Mile Road in Cardigan.

Acorn credits the bus driver for protecting her son from the black SUV that sped by. The driver saw the vehicle wasn't going to stop, and kept the boy on the bus. They weren't able to see its licence plate. 

"I cried most of the day yesterday, thinking about what happened," Acorn said. "If he hadn't acted so quickly and realized the situation that was playing out here, this could have been a lot worse. We were fortunate."

Acorn calls it a wake-up call for everybody, even as the school year winds down.

"I think people need to be aware that at the times of day when kids are getting on and off the bus ... just watch the road and pay attention to your driving because this could have been fatal with our son," she said.

"He's not the first and he won't be the last. We need to make some changes on this. People need to be more attentive to what's going on and there needs to be some stricter penalties and people brought to justice for running these lights because this could be a kid's life."

Complaints of vehicles passing buses ongoing

Acorn wants signage put up on the stretch of highway in Cardigan to warn cars to stop for the bus. 

RCMP say drivers must educate themselves to look out for school buses on Island roads. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

She believes cameras on buses could also help catch lawbreakers.

P.E.I.'s Public Schools Branch said it's tried cameras in the past, with poor results — they often don't capture a vehicle's plate numbers. That was a decade ago, and lasted only a few years. 

RCMP and school officials said driver education is the most crucial part of road safety.

"Unfortunately, throughout the school year, even though we put out a lot of education around school buses and making sure drivers are aware of them, we still do get complaints," said RCMP Sgt. Chris Gunn.

"With the longer days to play outside ... the attention of some of these students may not be the best this time of year, so we ask drivers when they see a school bus to be aware yellow lights may be coming on, then turning to red." 

The school bus now takes a different route home in the afternoon, so Harlan doesn't have to cross the highway when he gets off.  

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Brian Higgins

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