At a recent City council meeting Councillor Cindy Jefferies submitted a Notice of Motion regarding the use of school bus lights within City limits.
City of Red Deer Traffic Bylaw 3186/97 prohibits the activation of flashing red lights or use of stop arms on a school bus within the limits of the municipality.
“School divisions have done a wonderful job of promoting that when lights flash people can’t pass, but it’s inconsistent that we would then be telling drivers the opposite in the City,” said Jefferies.
While City school buses are prohibited from the operation of the light system, schools still urge drivers to slow down and use caution when passing a stopped bus.
Jefferies said about a year ago she was outside in her neighbourhood when she saw a bus stop and a car pass on the far side of it.
“Because the lights weren’t flashing the car was able to pass the bus. When I spoke with the driver she said they’re prevented from using lights in the City.”
Jefferies presumed it was a provincial regulation until recently when she received an email regarding the issue.
“I suggested at work that it was ridiculous that the bus didn’t have lights on and someone happened to know it was a City bylaw. I had no idea it was us standing in the way of buses using their lights.”
Jefferies said it is a huge concern because children’s safety is at risk and she wants to see a change to the bylaw.
The idea of the flashing amber and red lights as well as the stop sign on the side of the bus was to aid in pedestrian safety on rural roads where the speed limits are higher and there are fewer devices to help with the safe crossing of foot traffic.
On roadways with a speed limit of 50km/hr or less, school buses had not been allowed to stop traffic until 1986 when the provincial government revised the Alberta Highway Traffic Act to allow municipalities to regulate the school bus lights in their jurisdiction.
“If bus drivers are not allowed to use their lights, it’s putting kids at risk,” said Jefferies.
School buses had not initially been allowed to use their lights in urban centres where there were pre-existing crossing devises such as lights, stop signs, or crossing signals. The thought was that pedestrians were better aided by the road signs than the buses crossing lights or sign and that stopping vehicles mid-block would disrupt the flow of traffic.
“From what I understand it has something to do with students getting used to the flashing lights and relying on them as opposed to just using their street smarts,” said Jefferies.
The Notice of Motion submitted by Jefferies included a portion regarding the concern of citizens about the safety of their children if the bus lights are not used.
Jefferies is looking for a report from administration by Nov. 14 regarding the request to revise the bylaw.