Safer Roads Ottawa launches "I Stop, You Stop" campaign

The city is cracking down on drivers who fail to stop for school buses, whose lights are flashing and stop arms are deployed.

Cumberland Councillor Stephen Blais helped Safer Roads Ottawa launch their "I Stop, You Stop" Campaign Wednesday morning at Maple Ridge Elementary in Orleans.

The launch came just minutes after a close call just minutes before.

"A vehicle came and it continued through all our warning signals and stop sign and everything else," said bus driver-in-training Andrew Kissman, who was en route to Maple Ridge Elementary. "You never know, there could have been another student waiting to cross, or whatever, or the timing could have been slightly different."

"The student happened to not look both ways, because they saw the bus, and looked at the bus and came across," he told CFRA. "It was a matter of fortunate luck that the student crossed before the car came along."

Kissman said the incident happened quickly, but he noticed the driver was talking on a cell phone.

This case is just one of a growing number of incidents of vehicles failing to stop for school buses.

"It's an epidemic, I would say," said Kathleen Both, the owner of school bus company M.L. Bradley.

"We've trained our drivers to train their kids to wait for a signal to cross, but you have no control over the drivers that are coming from a fair distance away, and aren't paying attention," she added.

Councillor Blais said this is why they're putting up large warning signs in the city's east end.

"Really this is a way to remind people that it's important to stop for stop signs, because if you don't, the police are watching and the fines are pretty big and you could be putting the life of a child at risk," he said. "It's simply not worth it."

For now, road signs that are three feet by six feet will be installed at Champlain and Jeanne D'Arc, Charlemagne, Tenth Line, Brian Coburn, Innes, Mer Bleue and Jeanne D'Arc. They will later be replaced with larger, permanent signs.

"I think any awareness that you can do that improves the safety of the children on a school bus is worth it," said Both. "I'm hoping that this will have a huge impact. If you think about the awareness that was done with the ride program, the talking on your cell phone - everybody knows about those programs, right? Nobody thinks about stopping for school buses."

Councillor Blais said although the campaign is launching in the east end, this is a city-wide issue. He said they planned to expand throughout Ottawa.

The fine for passing a school bus stopped to let children on or off is $400 plus the surcharge and six demerit points.

Come this fall, the city hopes to have traffic cameras installed on the crossing arms of all buses so that law-breakers are caught red-handed.

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