Drivers who put the lives of children in danger are coming under scrutiny from the Chilliwack School Board.
Trustee David Swankey is the current board liaison for the City of Chilliwack Transportation Advisory Committee, and brought the troubling issue of so-called “red-light runners” to the table for discussion on Tuesday night. He asked the board of trustees for support going forward in working with transportation safety partners to address this type of dangerous drivers.
Red-light runners are those who drive past school buses that have come to a stop. Buses have full flashing lights and stop signs that are activated when they stop, as students commonly cross the road to get on or off buses.
Swankey’s recommendation was that the board “direct staff to draft a report to help inform the Board’s advocacy for stricter enforcement and penalties for red-light-runners.”
The recommendation received full board support, although Trustee Heather Maahs did question if it would be an onerous task for staff. Secretery-treasurer Gerry Slykhuis said it was information staff already has on hand, and it would not be time consuming.
Trustee Barry Neufeld asked whether it wouldn’t be better to equip school buses with cameras to catch such drivers’ licence plates. Slykhuis informed the board that about 60 per cent of the buses in the district already have these cameras. However, he added, the court system is slow and successful prosecution includes requiring the bus driver to appear in court. He said the district is working with law enforcement to create an easier affadivit system.
In his recommendation, Swankey noted the increased awareness taking place with their partners. He added that he felt it was timely for the board to act, perhaps in an advocacy role to the province.
“It has been a source of on-going concern that too many drivers are failing to stop when school buses pull over and initiate a full-stop procedure; drivers not adhering to a full-stop procedure are commonly referred to as red-light-runners. The issue of red-light-runners has been reoccurring and there have been coordinated efforts involving SD33, the City of Chilliwack, the RCMP and ICBC to try and address this problem through education and increased enforcement.”
”The concern here is one of student safety; drivers not adhering to the rules of the road put pedestrians, in this case children, at unnecessary risk,” Swankey’s recommendation continued. “The problem of red-light-runners persists despite the best efforts of our staff and our partners to educate and remind members of the public to adhere to the law.”
Earlier this year, Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness also spoke up publicly about the dangers to students on local roads, after a family experienced a scary, near-hit in Rosedale.
In that case, a home security system caught sight of a car that sped passed a stop school bus just seconds before a young girl skips across the road.
“There are several things I am going to investigate as MLA,” he told The Progress at that time, including lobbying for more police enforcement, and increasing public awareness through the Speed Watch program.
The Safer City committee also released a video depicting a similar, staged incident encouraging drivers to follow the rules.
School board staff will bring a report back to the board at a future meeting.