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School bus light upgrades on the way

Long-awaited legislation upgrading school bus lights kicks in Ontario-wide on July 1st.

Bill 246, Safer School Buses, will mandate the eight-lamp amber-red warning system for all school buses in the province. Chuck Seguin, Nipissing-Parry Sound Student Transportation Services’ Executive Director, says the new legislation has been a long time coming, adding Ontario is the last province in Canada to make this change.

“Currently along the roofline of the bus at the front and back, there are four red lights front and back for a total of eight.
The legislation that’s coming in on the 1st of July 2022 changes that so that two of the lights will be amber and two will be red. So as you’re facing the bus or following the bus you’ll notice at the top the inner two will be amber, and the outer two lights will be red,” Seguin says.

Seguin says as the bus is slowing to stop, these amber lights would flash indicating to drivers that the bus is going to stop. Once stopped, he says the amber lights will be shut off, red lights will come on, the door will open, and the stop arm will come out.

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“It’s at that point that it becomes a violation under Section 175 of the Highway Traffic Act to pass the school bus,” Seguin says. “Currently it can be very confusing for drivers because the red lights are flashing, but the bus is not completely stopped and the stop arm is not out,” he adds.

Once the amber-and-red light system is in place, Seguin says it should be very clear to drivers that when the ambers are going off, it means the bus is about to stop.

“It’s the same principle as coming up to a traffic light,” he says. “When you see an amber light the law says you’re supposed to stop if it’s safe to do so, once the light is red you’re not to proceed,”

Seguin says NPSSTS operates 388 yellow busses in our region, all of which will have until September 1 to equip with the new light system.

Currently, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) requires that all school buses built after 2005 be equipped with the Amber-Red system.

In April, the province earmarked over $4 million for school bus operators to access, in one-time funding, to help offset costs for retrofitting their buses with the Eight Lamp Amber-Red Warning System. Officials said school bus operators will be able to apply for grants to equip their buses with the new system, with more details communicated to the sector directly in May. According to the CSA’s analysis report, the estimated costs including parts and labour range from $155 to $480 per vehicle, depending on its type, plus applicable taxes.

Seguin says everything should be done and set by the start of school this September. In the meantime, however, he says people should be reminded to watch out for school buses because they’re going to be rolling until the end of June.

“We know that there are violations that occur and drivers have to pay close attention to those school buses and the flashing lights and stop arm and ensure that they stop. There’s a legislative change that will take effect July 1st with a new lighting system that will make it easier for drivers to know that the bus is slowing down and the difference between slowing down and stopping,” he says.

Seguin says his rule of thumb is if you’re following or meeting a school bus you should always expect that those lights will come on and be prepared to stop.

***Written by Mo Fahim
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