Local police services are reminding drivers of their obligation to stop for school buses under the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario.

“The Highway Traffic Act states that it is illegal to fail to stop for a school bus that has its red lights flashing. Failing to stop can result in fines of up to $2,000, six demerit points and possible jail time,” said Constable Erin Huckle with the Dryden OPP.

Every driver must stop whenever they approach a stopped school bus with its upper alternating red lights flashing, regardless of whether you are behind the bus or approaching it from the front. When approaching the bus from the front, stop at a safe distance for children to get off the bus and cross the road in front of you. If you are coming from behind the bus, stop at least 20 metres away. Do not go until the bus moves or the lights have stopped flashing.

“Please stop when you see flashing red lights. Our buses are carrying our future, and we all share the responsibility of keeping our kids safe,” said Judi Green, General Manager of the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium.

Police add that drivers must obey the school bus law on any road, no matter how many lanes or what the speed limit. Be prepared to stop for a school bus at any time, not just within school hours.

As well as the upper alternating red flashing lights, school buses use a stop sign arm on the driver's side of the bus. This arm, a standard stop sign with alternating flashing red lights at top and bottom, swings out after the upper alternating red lights begin to flash. Remain stopped until the arm folds away and all lights stop flashing.

If you don't stop, you can be fined $400 to $2,000 and get six demerit points for a first offence. If you are convicted a second time within five years, the penalty is a fine of $1,000 to $4,000 and six demerit points. You could also go to jail for up to six months.

In Ontario, school-bus drivers and other witnesses can report vehicles that have illegally passed a school bus. If you are the vehicle's registered owner, these same fines, but not demerit points or jail time, may be applied to you.

Ontario has 20,000 professional school bus drivers safeguard over 830,000 kids to and from school every day.

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