Ontario Government Supports Making School Buses Even Safer by Adopting the Amber-Red Warning System

Published on March 04, 2021

Safer School Buses Act, 2021 passes Second Reading with Support from All Parties

 

March 4, 2021

 

TORONTO- Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris’s Private Member’s Bill, Bill 246 the Safer School Buses Act, 2021 has passed second reading with all party support. This bill proposes to amend Section 175 of the Highway Traffic Act to require school buses manufactured after 2005 to be equipped with the amber-red dual lamp warning system by September 2022.

 

Adopting the amber-red warning system would see the two inner red overhead signals on the front and back of a school bus in Ontario replaced with amber signals. The 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. The amber-red system is used by every other province in Canada and every state in the United States, with Newfoundland (2014) and Wisconsin (2016) being the latest jurisdictions to switch.

 

“Ontario is one step closer to getting on board with the rest of North America and adopting the safer amber-red warning system for our school buses”, said MPP Mike Harris. “Being a father of five, the safety of my kids is always at the top of my mind and I am pleased that my colleagues have supported the second reading passage of my bill which would make the buses students take everyday even safer. This change is backed by law enforcement, safety advocates, and school bus operators and is long overdue in Ontario”.

 

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 yield nearly 2 percent fewer stopping violations.

 

“School Bus Ontario is pleased this bill is moving forward. We are encouraging all parties to see the value in this bill which, if passed, will greatly increase safety for students on school buses. Thanks again to MPP Mike Harris for taking the initiative,” said Nancy Daigneault, Executive Director of School Bus Ontario.

 

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 would only require a replacement of the lens cap.

 

“Bill 246 and the Amber Eight Lamp System put child safety first, where it should always be. Children are our future and should be protected at all costs. Maybe on February 11, 2000 if the School Bus that my brother Adam was getting off of would have had an Amber Eight Lamp System we might have seen who he would have grown up to be. The time for real change is now and you can make it happen! Please don't wait until it's too late,” said Pierre Ranger, Chairman of the Let’s Remember Adam campaign.

 

“On behalf of all students in the Province, we urge the Government to make the necessary legislative changes to require the 8 lamp system with amber/red colour combo to improve student safety and eliminate a significant cause of confusion for motorists on the Ontario roads”, said Benoit Bourgault, Manager of Student Transportation Services Waterloo Region.

 

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.

 

Bill 246 has been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy. Before it becomes law, it must be debated for a second time and pass Third Reading.