Sudbury Student Services Consortium official pleased with Safer School Buses Act

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SUDBURY – An official with the Sudbury Student Services Consortium (SSSC), which provides coordination of school bus services for four school boards in the Sudbury area (including the Rainbow District School Board), is very pleased with the changes made in Ontario to have the amber-red warning system on school buses. 

“We are thrilled with this becoming law,” stated Renee Boucher, executive director of SSSC in an interview with the Recorder last Friday.  “Ontario is the last province in the country to enact this legislation. We’re very happy to see the new law take effect in Ontario.”

The Safer School Buses Act, 2021 (Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris’s private member’s bill) has received Royal Assent and officially became law. By the 2022-2023 school year, Ontario will require all school buses manufactured after 2005 to have the amber-red warning system.

Ms. Boucher explained that with the amber-red warning system, the two inner red overhead lamps on the front and back of a school bus will be replaced with amber signals. School bus drivers will activate the amber signals when they are approaching a stop, which will give drivers clear prior notice that they are slowing down to let a student on or off the bus. And when a school bus is at a full-complete stop, the driver will activate the red lights.

“Approaching motorists will be able to see this and will have time, and know they have to stop,” said Ms. Boucher. 

MPP Harris was quoted by Sudbury.com as saying, “being a father of five, the safety of my kids is always at the top of my mind. I am thrilled that the Safer School Buses Act has become law and in 2022 Ontario will join the rest of North America by adopting the safer amber-red warning system. This common sense change is long overdue and has the backing of school bus operators, safety advocates and law enforcement.” 

Under the provincial Highway Traffic Act, it is only an offence to pass a school bus when the red lights are flashing and the bus is stopped. With the current all red system, red lights are also used to warn drivers that the bus is approaching a stop. The amber-red system will more clearly reflect a driver’s legal obligations while also preventing illegal passes and dangerous panic stops.

Transport Canada, in a study published in 2002, recommended that all provinces use the amber-red system. This study found that amber warning lights were 11 percent more effective than the all-red system. This study found that amber warning lights were more effective than the all red system at reducing the speed of approaching vehicles and yielded fewer stopping violations.

All school buses bought in Ontario after January 1, 2005 are now required by the Ministry of Transportation to be manufactured with eight overhead signal lights. With this change, most bus models will only require a replacement of the lens cap.

Ms. Boucher told the Recorder she will be reaching out to all local bus operators to alert and ask them if they are ready for the change. 

“We have been waiting for years for this change to take place and are very happy this is now going to take place,” added Ms. Boucher.