Ontario Adopts the Amber-Red Warning System for School Buses

Published on May 12, 2021

By September 2022 The Province’s School Buses Will Have Amber and Red Lights

May 12, 2021


TORONTO- Today Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris’s Private Member’s Bill, the Safer School Buses Act, 2021, received Royal Assent and officially became law. By the 2022-2023 school year, Ontario will join every other jurisdiction in North America and require all school buses manufactured after 2005 to have the amber-red warning system.


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. A school bus driver would activate the amber signals when approaching a stop to give drivers clear advanced notice that they are slowing down to let a student on or off the bus. Once the bus is at a full and complete stop, the driver would activate the red lights.


“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”, said MPP Mike Harris. “This commonsense change is long overdue and has the backing of school bus operators, safety advocates, and law enforcement”.


Under the 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. This is intended to give motorists who cannot safely stop time to pass the school bus. The amber-red system would more clearly reflect a driver’s legal obligations while also preventing illegal passes and dangerous panic stops.


Some estimate that across the province, 30,000 drivers illegally pass a school bus every day. In a study published in 2002, Transport Canada 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 at reducing the speed of approaching vehicles and yielded fewer stopping violations.


“School Bus Ontario is thrilled that all parties have seen the value in adopting the 8 lamp amber-red warning system. Making this change will greatly increase safety for students on school buses and we are thankful to MPP Mike Harris for all of his work to get this bill across the finish line,” said Nancy Daigneault, Executive Director of School Bus Ontario.


“We are pleased to see the Ontario government finally moving forward and making the legislative changes necessary to adopt the 8 lamp system with amber/red colour combo. This change will improve student safety and eliminate a significant cause of confusion for motorists”, said Benoit Bourgault, Manager of Student Transportation Services Waterloo Region.


The Ministry of Transportation has required all school buses purchased in Ontario after January 1, 2005 to be manufactured with 8 overhead signal lights. For most bus models this change will only require a replacement of the lens cap.

The Safer School Buses Act, 2021 builds on work already undertaken by the province to improve school bus safety. In 2019, regulatory changes were made by the Minister of Transportation to allow for school bus stop arm camera footage to be used to prosecute drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.