By Dana Haggith – Sydenham Current
As I look back on the incident that occurred 25 years ago this past May, I’m thankful to still be alive to tell the story and raise some awareness about it.
It was a bright, sunny day in the spring of 1989.
My friends and I were busy gabbing, laughing and getting our hands tangled together in games of The Cat’s Cradle, as we rode the school bus home from McNaughton Avenue Public School in Chatham.
It was an ordinary Thursday afternoon and I was looking forward to spending the evening with my family.
However, as I stepped off of the school bus to begin my walk home… I was smoked by a passing car.
My tiny eight-year-old body was projected 33 metres away, coming to a rest on the gravel.
My friend and neighbour Teya was right behind me when it happened and frantically ran to tell my mom.
I was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital where I received dozens of stitches to close up some cuts and receive treatment.
A medical report summarized afterwards that I suffered from a mild concussion, lacerations to my scalp, multiple contusions and abrasions, a mild contusion to my right kidney, post-concussion headaches and some emotional upset.
We found out afterwards that the driver of the car was attempting to pass the school bus on the right shoulder of my road when he hit me.
My feet were not even fully planted on the ground.
Subsequently, he was charged in criminal court.
With school getting under way next Tuesday, Sept. 2, I thought this was a perfect time to tell my story.
I wanted this to be a reminder to motorists, school bus drivers, students, parents and everyone in the community – school bus safety is very important.
Everyone needs to play a part in ensuring the safety of our children.
The Ontario Provincial Police recently issued a reminder to the public, here is their info:
From the OPP:
Drivers need to understand the rules pertaining to passing school busses and the substantial fines for passing busses stopped with signals flashing.
Drivers approaching a stopped school bus from the front with its overhead red signal-lights flashing shall stop in front of the school bus and not pass until the signals are turned off and the bus moves.
Drivers approaching a stopped school bus from the rear with its red signal-lights flashing shall stop 20 metres behind the school bus and not pass until the signals are turned off and the bus moves. 20 meters allows the school bus driver to view your vehicle in their rear mirrors.
Vehicle owners need to be aware that if the driver can’t be identified, the owner can be charged for the offence provided the licence plate number is obtained by any witness.
If convicted, the driver/owner can be fined not less than $400 up to $2,000 for a first offence and to a fine not less than $1,000 – $ 4,000 or imprisonment for a subsequent offence(s). The penalty section also levies 6 Demerit Points to a drivers licence.
This law is in place to protect our most valuable resource, young children. Passing a stopped school bus is not only against the law; it is a potential lethal decision. Taking a few extra minutes behind a stopped school can prevent lifelong regret of injuring or killing a child.
The OPP issued a separate press release, with more information, statistics and links to more information:
From the OPP:
West Region Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is gearing up for this year’s back-to-school season by encouraging everyone to be vigilant and patient when you encounter school buses.
The Independent School Bus Operators Association (ISBOA) conducted a province-wide study with their school bus companies between May 5, 2014 and May 9, 2014. During this period, bus drivers reported incidents where vehicles failed to stop for the school bus when lights were flashing.
Results show that approximately 151 such incidents occurred each day during the 5-day study. The majority of these incidents (75%) happened while the vehicle was approaching the bus from the front. These numbers concern the OPP because bus drivers are not the only people who are responsible for the lives of our children.
“As drivers, we know that at certain times of the day we can expect to encounter school buses during our travels. Drivers need to be vigilant and pay attention to the flashing red lights and other safety equipment used on buses. Our children’s safety depends on it,” says West Region OPP Traffic Inspector Ian Chappell.
The Highway Traffic Act of Ontario indicates that when a school bus is stopped on the roadway with its red lights activated and “Stop” sign out, drivers must come to a complete stop in-front of and behind the bus. Motorists must not pass the stopped bus until the stop arm is retracted and the red lights are turned off. The owner of a vehicle can be charged if their vehicle fails to stop for a school bus even if they were not the driver.
Back-to-school is always a busy time for everyone. The OPP and ISBOA are working together to educate the public and to raise awareness about the possible serious consequences of ignoring school bus flashing lights.
“Family-owned school bus companies across the province are pleased to be working with their local law enforcement agencies to raise awareness about the dangers of passing a stopped school bus,” says Steve Hull, President of ISBOA. “Our common goal is to make back-to-school – and the rest of the school year- safe for all children who ride the bus.”
For more information on the study please visit the ISBOA website at: I Stop You Stop Campaign
Here are some photos of an eight-year-old me recovering after the incident: