Thursday, February 3, 2011
Double Lanes Safer than Single?
On more than one occasion since I've lived in Calgary, I've come up behind a school bus stopped to let out the little people and never have they had the stop sign out. The first time this happened I didn't know if I was allowed to go past or not, but there were no flashing red lights and no sign and even in my slight hesitation, other vehicles were already honking at me to get going. So I slipped by ever so slowly but it felt wrong. Just because there is an additional lane going the same direction as the bus, doesn't really make it any safer. A little person could still dart out in front of the bus and get smacked by another impatient driver. The safety of the children is supposed to be the number one priority, isn't it?
I remember when I was in second grade a girl that I went to school with got hit by a car and died. I can't say I really knew her or anything, but it was just one of those things that goes around a school, the immature and innocent not quite understanding the gravity of the situation. You would think that in the day and age of texting while driving or talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel, the safety of the children would be the first priority so why wouldn't we ensure our children's safety by using the flashing red lights and stop sign that someone took great care to install all those years ago? It would take all of two seconds to arm the lights and extend the sign.
Even now, after more than 10 years in Calgary, I hesitate when passing a school bus, lights or no lights. Actually I can't even remember the last time I saw a bus with its lights flashing.
I just don't get it.
Safety people! Safety.
The following is from the Government of Alberta Transportation website.
Motorists play key role in school bus safety
Edmonton… The 265,000 Alberta students that start and end their day with a ride on a school bus aren’t the only ones who need to be taught about school bus safety as most injuries happen before or after the bus ride. Drivers must respect the flashing lights on a school bus, which create a safety zone around the bus and are often children's only defence when they get on or off the bus.
Use caution and be alert when driving near buses and in school zones.
•Watch out for alternating flashing amber lights, which means a school bus is slowing to stop where students will either be getting on or off the bus.
•Slow down and stop when the school bus activates its alternately flashing red lights. This means you must stop whether you are approaching an oncoming bus or following one. The only exception to this rule is when the bus is on the opposite side of a two-way highway that is physically divided by a median.
•Proceed only when the red lights on the bus have stopped flashing.
•Watch for school buses loading and unloading children, even if the lights aren't flashing.
•Be on the lookout for children crossing the road.
When travelling in school zones, drivers must pay attention to the posted signs. The speed for both urban and rural schools zones is 30 km/h unless otherwise posted. These limits are in effect on school days from 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m.; 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. The fine for passing a school bus with its red lights flashing is $402 and six demerit points.
Some municipalities have bylaws not requiring school buses to use their alternating flashing lights when they stop. In this case, drivers do not need to stop but should still be cautious and watch for pedestrians when the buses are loading or unloading students.
Transport Canada has reported that school bus travel remains the safest mode of transportation to and from schools. Maintaining this safety requires motorists do their part too.
Improving traffic safety is one of the actions under Premier Ed Stelmach's plan to provide Albertans with safe and secure communities. Other priorities for the government are to govern with integrity and transparency, improve Albertans’ quality of life, manage growth pressures, and build a stronger Alberta.
For more information about traffic safety, contact the Office of Traffic Safety at 780-422-8839 or visit http://www.saferoads.com/.
Personally, I still think those lights should be used all the time. But at least I answered my own question.