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School Bus Related Charges In Ontario

Out of all the traffic on Ontario’s roadways, few vehicles carry more vulnerable and valued content as school buses.  Every school day, young and eager children excitedly enter and exit school buses at the side of the road surrounded by other vehicles.  To keep our children safe, the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) and the Ontario courts have developed an extensive amount of law and caselaw surrounding this issue.

There are three main sections of the HTA dealing with the requirement to stop for a school bus.  Let’s take a look!

FAIL TO STOP FOR SCHOOL BUS – MEETING

The current text of HTA s.175(11) for “Fail To Stop For School Bus – Meeting” is as follows:

“(11) Every driver or street car operator, when meeting on a highway, other than a highway with a median strip, a stopped school bus that has its overhead red signal-lights flashing, shall stop before reaching the bus and shall not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead red signal-lights have stopped flashing.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 175 (11).”

On a day yet to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor, the above section will be repealed and the following will be substituted:

“(11) Every driver or street car operator, when meeting on a highway, other than a highway with a median strip, a stopped school bus that has its overhead red signal-lights flashing, shall stop before reaching the bus and shall not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead red signal-lights have stopped flashing. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 21 (1).

(11.1) Every driver or street car operator, when meeting on a highway, other than a highway with a median strip, a stopped school bus that has its stop arm actuated, shall stop before reaching the bus and shall not proceed until the bus moves or the stop arm is no longer actuated. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 21 (1).”

The current text requires a driver going in the opposite direction on a roadway where there is no separating median strip between the bus and the driver to stop for the school bus if it has its overhead red lights flashing.  The driver is then prohibited from proceeding until the bus either moves or the overhead red lights stop flashing.

The upcoming change to this section of the Highway Traffic Act will include a new section 175(11.1) to include a ‘stop arm’ arm as an equivalent indicator that the bus is stopped and that drivers must not pass.  Until the stop arm has been retracted, drivers will have to wait just as though the overhead red lights were flashing.

Entering a plea of guilt or being convicted at court under this section of law would result in a 6 demerit point penalty being placed against your licence.  The record of conviction would be visible to third parties such as an employer or insurer for a period of 3 years and may result in being classified a ‘high risk’ driver for insurance rates.  The maximum fine that can be issued by the court is $2,000.00 (plus the 25% victim fine surcharge for a maximum total-payable fine of $2,500.00).

FAIL TO STOP FOR SCHOOL BUS – APPROACHING

Highway Traffic Act section 175(12) details “Fail To Stop For School Bus – Approaching” which is very similar to the previous section:

“(12) Every driver or street car operator on a highway, when approaching from the rear a stopped school bus that has its overhead red signal-lights flashing, shall stop at least twenty metres before reaching the bus and shall not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead red signal-lights have stopped flashing.  R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 175 (12).”

On a day yet to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor, the above section will be repealed and the following will be substituted:

“(12) Every driver or street car operator on a highway, when approaching from the rear a stopped school bus that has its overhead red signal-lights flashing, shall stop and shall not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead red signal-lights have stopped flashing. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 21 (1).

(12.1) Every driver or street car operator on a highway, when approaching from the rear a stopped school bus that has its stop arm actuated, shall stop and shall not proceed until the bus moves or the stop arm is no longer actuated. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 21 (1).

(12.2) Every driver or street car operator on a highway, when approaching from the rear a stopped school bus that has its overhead red signal-lights flashing, or that has its stop arm actuated, shall stop at least 20 metres before reaching the bus. 2017, c. 26, Sched. 4, s. 21 (1).”

The current section of law is very similar to the previously discussed section for ‘Fail To Stop For School Bus – Meeting.’  The difference here is that HTA s.175(12) deals with approaching the school bus from behind.  The same conditions apply that there must not be a median strip dividing the driver and the school bus, and that the driver must stop and not pass the bus while its overhead red lights are flashing.  This section also provides 20 meters as the minimum distance from which the vehicle must be stopped behind the bus.

In the pending changes, subsection 12 remains specific to the red signal-lights indicating that a driver must stop, but removes the specific 20 meter stopping distance.  Section (12.1) is specific to the bus signaling with a stop arm, again with no 20 meter stopping distance specified.  These first two sections specifically state that the driver may not proceed to pass the bus until the flashing red lights have stopped or the stop arm has been retracted.  Oddly, a third section under (12.2) has been included that requires drivers to stop for either signaling method no closer than 20 meters to the bus, but remains silent on a requirement for the driver to remain stopped and not pass the bus.

A conviction under this section would result in a 6 demerit point penalty against your driver’s licence and may result in being classified as a ‘high risk’ driver for insurance purposes.  This conviction would remain visible for insurance and third parties for a period of 3 years.  The maximum fine that can be issued by the court is $2,000.00 (plus the 25% victim fine surcharge for a maximum total-payable fine of $2,500.00).

FAIL TO STOP FOR SCHOOL BUS – VEHICLE OWNER

An alternate version of this offence could see the owner of the vehicle being charged.  Not necessarily that they were driving the vehicle at the time of the offence, simply that they were the owner of the vehicle at that time.  These charges fall under HTA s.175(19) and HTA s.175(20) respectively mirroring the above two charges:

“(19) A person who issues a certificate of offence or who prepares an information to be laid under the Provincial Offences Act for a contravention of subsection (11) shall, despite that Act and the regulations under that Act, specify this subsection, instead of subsection (11), as the provision that was contravened, if the defendant is being charged as the owner of the vehicle.  2004, c. 22, s. 5 (2).”

And,

“(20) A person who issues a certificate of offence or who prepares an information to be laid under the Provincial Offences Act for a contravention of subsection (12) shall, despite that Act and the regulations under that Act, specify this subsection, instead of subsection (12), as the provision that was contravened, if the defendant is being charged as the owner of the vehicle.  2004, c. 22, s. 5 (2).”

These sections will be facing a similar amendment to include references to the new subsections being added for (11.1) and (12.1).  Because the person is being charged simply as the owner of the vehicle, and not necessarily the driver of the vehicle, these charges carry no demerit points

NOVICE DRIVERS AND SCHOOL BUS CHARGES

One of the limitations of a novice driver’s licence (such as a G1 or G2 licence), is that a conviction for any single offence carrying 4 or more demerit points would result in escalated sanctions penalties.  As the first two versions of charges for failing to stop for a school bus result in a 6 demerit point penalty, the following would occur:

  • 30-day licence suspension for the first occurrence
  • 90-day licence suspension for the second occurrence
  • Licence cancellation and a requirement to re-apply for a G1/M1 after the third occurrence. 

COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE DRIVERS AND SCHOOL BUS CHARGES

Commercial motor vehicle drivers and their companies are at an even greater risk when charged for failing to stop for a school bus.  On top of the regular penalties listed above, these charges also included the highest possible CVOR point penalty of 5 points.  A 5 CVOR point conviction may result in being unemployable in the transportation industry.

WHAT TO DO?

If you are charged by the police for any form of failing to stop for school bus, it is important to immediately seek out the information that you will need to make informed decisions in the days to come.  You may either have a ticket with a filing deadline or you may have a summons with a mandatory first appearance court date already set for you.  An unnecessary guilty plea or conviction can result in consequences that will alter your life for years into the future.  if you are charged by the police, our friendly staff can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at info@otdlegal.ca, or by text at 226-240-2480.  We offer a no-cost, no obligation initial consultation and will be happy to assist you.

Posted under Traffic Ticket Defence

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