Nothing can make a mom’s, or nana’s, heart stop faster than watching not one, but three cars race by a stopped bus with the arm down and signals flashing.
Chatham area mom Sydney Bibby and her mother, Connie Cominsky, were horrified this past week when Bibby went to put her four-year-old son Forster on the bus to Pain Court in front of her mom’s Riverview Line home at 7:45 a.m. As she was making sure her son was going up the steps of the bus, Bibby said three cars zoomed past, one right after the other.
“One incident triggered so much panic,” Bibby said, during an interview with The Voice at the office of MPP Rick Nicholls. “Karen (the bus driver) was shocked. She said, ‘Three cars just passed me with the lights flashing.’”
Bibby immediately called the police, but without the license plate numbers of the vehicles, they weren’t able to follow up. Bibby said she was so shocked, the cars were around the bend before she could take any action.
Cominsky said she had just spoken with Chatham-Kent police deputy chief Jeff Littlewood about the speeding that occurs on the road the week before and shared her concern with school being back in and buses stopping. Littlewood arranged for a police cruiser to set up in her driveway, and 10 cars were ticketed for speeding in one hour, around the time Forster’s bus arrives at her home.
She said the ticketing didn’t seem to deter speeders, and her concerns were proved correct when the three cars passed her grandson’s bus.
“It’s worse on his way home because he has to cross one lane of traffic,” Bibby said. “My mom has to stand in the driveway and I wait for her to give me the all clear before I cross the road.”
Calls to municipal councillors Trevor Thompson, Frank Vercouteren and Karen Herman were not returned, Cominsky said, but when she called Nicholls office, he agreed to meet with her the next day and give her the details of his private members’ bill, Bill 94, an act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to evidence obtained from school bus camera systems.
“We live in a residential area and I feel majorly let down by the police and my council members. Rick is the only one that called us back about this,” Bibby said on Friday.
Nicholls said his bill is intended to take the onus off of police officers and install cameras on busses that can be turned over to police and used as evidence to find drivers that break the law.
“This to me is an obvious bill; a non-partisan bill,” Nicholls said. “My bill eliminates need for police to witness the violation, with the fine sent directly to the owner of the vehicle. No demerit points, just raise the fines and hit them in the pocket book.”
The MPP fears, however, that this has turned into partisan politics and that the Liberal government has no intention of sending the bill to committee after a second reading.
He said a pilot project already tested the technology needed this past spring in Brantford, Mississauga, Sudbury and Kitchener-Waterloo. It was conducted by a company that makes the cameras, along with municipalities, school boards and police forces in the communities.
The project found drivers illegally passed school buses that stopped to let children on or off — with their lights flashing and stop-arm out — in all those communities.
Nicholls said the problem was the worst in Mississauga, where vehicles were passing buses an average of two-and-a-half times per bus per day.
“That’s totally unacceptable. Even on a four-lane road like Keil Drive, people don’t think they need to stop. We need to get people educated and get that bill out there,” Nicholls said.
The MPP has spoken to the Minister of Transportation and the Attorney General who both seem to agree the bill is needed, and even tried to have his bill incorporated into another bill regarding safe school zones.
The MTO said it was to have stakeholder meetings over the summer and would invite Nicholls.
“Three weeks into September I asked in Question Period about the bill and stakeholder meetings, and said I was still waiting for my invite,” Nicholls noted. “The reason I wanted the bill passed by May is so we could take the summer to educate people and have the technology ready for September. Something needs to be done before a tragedy occurs.”
Cominsky agreed and said she doesn’t want to wait until a child is killed on Riverview Line before anyone actually listens to their concerns. She would like to see the speed reduced to at least 70 km per hour on the winding road, and the municipality change the designation of the road to Class B so 18-wheelers can’t use it.
“A speed limit of 80 km per hr. on Riverview Line is too high. The road is narrow and too windy. We lose electricity at least once a month because speeders hit a hydro pole. People race out here and commuters race by in a road rage if they can’t go fast enough,” Cominsky said.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope called her Monday and said he supports Nicholls’ bill and having cameras on the buses and will be speaking to council to get their support as well.