Exterior cameras have been installed on all Cowichan Valley School District buses. (Submitted)

Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

"I've seen kids have to run from cars"

I’m glad to see that every school bus in the Cowichan Valley has finally been outfitted with surveillance cameras, inside and out.

The primary role of the cameras, which cost $150,000 and were financed through the federal government’s Safe Return to Class Fund, is to allow for easier contact tracing in the event of a student, or students, on the bus contracting COVID-19.

The four interior cameras on each bus will provide contact tracers with detailed information about conditions inside the buses, including mask wearing, length of interactions, and distance between riders.

But it’s the three exterior cameras that I’m most excited about as they will serve to document traffic infractions and problem drivers who put both students and staff at risk.

My heart leaps into my throat every time I see a school bus stopped on the side of the road with its red lights flashing and that little stop sign sticking out from the driver’s side warning drivers not to go around the bus while stopped, and then some bozo does it anyway.

I tightly grip my steering wheel every time, hoping and praying that some youngster doesn’t come skipping out from the front of the bus and into the path of the moron who feels that rules just don’t apply to him/her.

Most children I know are easily excited and tend to forget such self-preserving practices like looking to make sure there are no vehicles coming before they dart into the street, and that’s why the law puts the onus on the drivers, who are supposed to be adults and responsible for following the rules of the road.

And for those drivers who may have forgotten the basics from when they took their driving test to get their licence, you are never allowed to pass a school bus that has its stop lights flashing.

There is no excuse for it; it doesn’t matter if you’re late for an appointment or just have to go to the bathroom very badly, you just don’t do it.

It’s a tragedy for everyone involved when a child with a full life ahead is struck on the road and badly injured, or even killed, so I really appreciate it when authorities take steps to help ensure such horrific instances don’t happen.

I remember reading a story by my former colleague Lexi Bainas a couple of years ago in which she interviewed school bus driver Carol Combs who had been driving for the local school district for 15 years and told Bainas that she had seen some pretty close calls in that time.

“I’ve had to use my air horns to get the kids to jump and get back into the bus and out of the way of the traffic,” Combs said.

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars.”

I recall back in 2019 when the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP had officers following buses and issuing tickets to those who put students at risk, and in just a few days, officers wrote five tickets and one warning for failing to stop for a school bus.

That’s unacceptable, and these new cameras will go a long way to bring motorists disobeying the rules around school buses to justice.

“The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP will be working closely with the Cowichan Valley School District with the same goal: to keep our children safe while being transported to and from school,” said Candace Spilsbury, chairwoman of the Cowichan Valley school district, about the new cameras.

“Using this new technology, it will be easier to bring enforcement action to those that persist in passing school buses using their stop equipment, breaking the law and putting our children in danger.”

So you impatient motorists who feel you have the right to put children at risk should keep in mind that there are now cameras on those buses watching you, and you can expect a visit from your local police to talk to you about your driving habits if you break the rules.

I think the small federal investment of $150,000 is a small price to pay if it saves the lives of just one of our most vulnerable, and valuable, citizens.

robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.comLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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