The Safer School Buses Act of 2021 would require all Ontario provincial school buses manufactured after 2005 to be equipped with the amber-red dual lamp warning system by September 2022, which would match the safety laws in place throughout the rest of Canada and across the U.S.
Mike Harris, the member of provincial parliament representing Kitchener-Conestoga, introduced the bill on Feb. 16 to propose changes to Section 175 of the Highway Traffic Safety Act. It calls for the two inner red overhead signals on the front and rear of school buses to be replaced with amber lights that would activate when a school bus driver is approaching a stop.
The system is designed to provide motorists with more warning that a school bus will be stopping and when a student may be in the roadway.
“As a parent, I firmly believe that safety should be the number one priority, especially when it comes to the buses children take to and from school,” Harris said via a press release. “Now is the time for Ontario to join the rest of North America and adopt the amber-red warning system to make buses as safe as possible. I am pleased to finally introduce this long-awaited legislation and will work with members of all parties to push it across the finish line.”
Harris referred to a Transport Canada study released in 2002 that recommended all provinces adopt the amber-red system, as they are more consistent at slowing down approaching vehicles. Since 2014, every other province in Canada has adopted the system.
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Nancy Daigneault, executive director of non-profit advocacy group School Bus Ontario, said adopting the best practices from other jurisdictions in North America improves overall student safety on school buses. “The eight-lamp system is a definite road safety benefit, primarily to students, compared to the red warning system that is currently in use in the province,” she explained.
If passed, the School Bus Safety Act of 2021 would build upon previous work performed by the province toward improving school bus safety. For instance, changes made in 2019 allow for school bus stop-arm camera footage be used to charge motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.