When is an “unsafe” school bus stop safe?
That’s the question several people previously involved in a dispute with the Rainy River District Board of Education still have on their minds.
Della McQuaker, a Devlin mother, was worried that a stop in question, located on the east side of the road just below the top of a steep hill, was dangerous for the morning pick-up of one of her neighbor’s children.
Her reasoning was that traffic heading east behind the bus would not be able to see it, and thus slow down, before getting to the top of the hill.
At the beginning of April, bus drivers Louella Anderson and Twyla Darrah, who also had noted the danger of the stop, brought news of the potential hazard to Warren Hoshizaki, the director of education for the Rainy River District School Board, and the board eventually did respond.
“It was brought to our attention, and we had the OPP go out and investigate the legality of the stop under the Ontario statutes,” said Hoshizaki.
“They determined it was a legal stop but that it could still be potentially dangerous,” he added. “On that recommendation, we applied to the MTO for the proper signage.
“There will be no buses stopping there until that signage is in place.”
But after hearing of this decision, McQuaker said it was not really addressing her point because the children getting on at this particular stop could board a bus going the opposite direction, which she noted is safer, just five minutes earlier (at 7:40 a.m. instead of 7:45 a.m.)
McQuaker charged the board should not leave it up to parents’ discretion as to when their kids get on the bus if there is an element of danger involved, or at least permit bus drivers the right to refuse to stop where they feel it is unsafe—particularly when a safe stop was available only five minutes earlier across the road.
“It’s a very dangerous stop—they shouldn’t put the signs up at all,” McQuaker said Monday, who remains concerned with the future of the stop.
“With the increased traffic flow due to the mill in Barwick, there’s never been so many loaded vehicles on the road at that time of day,” she warned.
“It’s a bad stop, and it’s been that way for quite a while,” echoed Darrah, who drives school bus for the board and makes the “safe” (7:40 a.m.) stop every morning.
“There was a couple of times when this particular bunch of kids have missed my bus, and Louella Anderson had to pick them five minutes behind me.
“When she drove by them once, though, then it really hit the fan,” Darrah said.
Although notified of the temporary policy not to stop at the “dangerous” stop until “school bus loading” signage is placed before the hill, Darrah noted that it may not be the best solution.
“Even with the signs, I have to ask, ‘How much does it work?” she remarked, recalling several instances she’s know of where drivers have taken “months” to notice new signage.
“I’d just as soon as have it the way it is now—having no stop is as safe as we could possibly make that stop,” she stressed.
Anderson was not available for comment as of press time.
But the school board has stuck by its decision, and signage eventually will mark the stop.
In the meantime, McQuaker is reminded of the tragic bus accident that occurred Dec. 5, 1993 where one student was killed and another permanently disabled.
“I do not have to look up this date as many parents and young people remember it,” she noted. “The cross that marks the spot reminds those who use the bus system, and those that love them, of the horror daily.”
“The details of that accident could not have been foreseen,” she added. “I don’t want the bus my child rides to school to be involved in or witness to such a tragedy, especially one that’s so preventable.”