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27 Jun, Monday
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Montreal Families

A refresher on school bus safety

If you’re a driver you probably (hopefully) know that there’s no turning right on a red on the island of Montreal, that vehicles need winter tires between December 1 and March 15, and that seat belt use is mandatory for all automobile passengers. But as we enter another school year, do you remember all of the driving rules when you’re approaching or near a school bus?

It’s not hard to spot a school bus. They’re easily recognizable by their yellow colour and when stopped, their flashing lights. But all too often, distracted drivers, those in a hurry, or people who are unfamiliar with the laws dangerously ignore stop signs and flashing lights.

For a refresher on how to avoid school bus accidents and keep students, drivers, motorists, and yourself safe, read up on the Highway Safety Code rules below and learn more about adopting safe driving behaviour.

Stop signs and flashing lights

  • A mandatory pre-signal of flashing yellow lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop. You must also slow down and prepare to stop.
  • When a school bus turns on its flashing lights or the driver extends the stop signs on the sides of the bus, you must stop your vehicle at least 5 metres (16 feet) away from the bus. This law is in place whether you are following the bus or approaching from the opposite direction and allows students to leave the bus safely. Passing or crossing a school bus when the red lights are flashing not only greatly endangers schoolchildren but can lead to a fine of $200 to $300 and 9 demerit points entered on your driving record.
  • The exception to the previous rule: you are not required to stop when you are approaching a school bus that is in a lane separated from yours by a median.
  • Do not move your vehicle until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm is no longer activated.
  • When in a zone where passing is allowed, you may pass a school bus whose red lights are off and whose stop sign is deactivated.

Failing to obey these rules is one of the most severely punished offences.

When driving in and around school zones

  • Speed is one of the leading causes of accidents on Quebec roads. Every driver in a school zone needs to be aware of reduced speed limits — usually 30 km/h — and extra alert when children are nearby.
  • Ensure that your vehicle does not block the crosswalk and force children to walk in traffic.
  • Make eye contact with children who are walking or biking to school who want to cross the street, and make a hand gesture to let them know you have seen them.
  • Respect areas reserved for school buses and stop your car in school-designated areas.
  • Always make sure that your vehicle is completely stopped at a safe distance whenever a school crossing guard holds up a stop sign.
  • Put your phone away. Using a cell phone or any other portable electronic device while driving is prohibited. Even holding a device in your hand or in any other manner while driving is illegal. This is true even if you are waiting at a red light, stuck in a traffic jam, or waiting in line at school drop-off.
  • Be aware of children who may be passing or standing between parked vehicles.

If you’re a parent, regularly remind your children of the safety rules when around buses and while travelling on them. You can find school bus transportation rules on the website of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec.


Related Read: 9 back-to-school safety tips