School bus camera footage may soon be enough to prosecute drivers who pass the stopped vehicles in Ontario, with municipalities across the province also able to levy stiffer fines for the offence.
Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said Thursday the Progressive Conservative government will make regulatory changes that will mean an additional witness is no longer required in order to use the camera footage in court.
Yurek said that currently if a school bus driver can’t afford to take a day off work to testify the camera footage is inadmissible in court.
“Once the infraction is caught, you no longer need to have the driver going to court, taking a day off work to go testify that so and so blew by the bus,” he said. “You can use the camera.”
Every day in Ontario over 837,000 children are transported to school by bus and bolstering safety programs is important, he added.
“We hope that these changes will help to reduce the number of children harmed while going to school and coming home on the bus,” Yurek said. “We know these measures will hold irresponsible drivers accountable.”
The government will also introduce a law that, if passed, would permit municipalities to add additional fines to drivers who break the law and pass a stopped school bus.
The changes would also allow municipalities to move prosecution of the cases from the provincial court system to their own existing local tribunals and all fines collected will stay within the community, Yurek said.
“They can utilize the proceeds from collecting these fines and put them towards ensuring that all buses have these cameras aboard,” he said.
Currently, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be charged and face a fine of up to $2,000 and receive six demerit points for a first offence.
Each subsequent offence can lead to a driver being fined up to $4,000, an additional six demerit points, and up to six months in jail.
Rob Murphy, president of the Independent School Bus Association of Ontario, said that organization has been asking for the changes for years.
“(It) will benefit our drivers as they focus on the care and control of the students we deliver to and from school each and every day,” he said.