Editorial: Bus stop arm camera leadership needed

Legislation in Ontario to allow for the installation of stop arm cameras on school buses has been passed since 2020. This legislation enables changes to Provincial Offences to aid in prosecuting people who put children’s lives at risk, passing school buses when they are stopped. Sadly, progress on implementing this life-saving deterrent has stalled.

Stop arm cameras are essentially a moving red-light camera, activated when the flashing lights of a school bus are activated for a stop. The legislation allows for tickets to be issued under the Provincial Offences Act, similar to how most vehicle enforcement tickets are prosecuted. Other than limited pilot projects, few municipalities have mandated the use of stop arm cameras on school buses.

The legislation required upper and single tier municipalities, which are responsible for POA bylaws, to adopt bylaws to mandate localized use. Herein lies the issue – there are 203 upper-tier or single-tier municipalities, 76 school boards, and 33 transportation consortia involved. In order to implement this locally in SDG Counties, four school boards, two transportation consortia, and nine other neighbouring upper or single tier municipalities (Prescott, Brockville, Gananoque, Leeds-Grenville County, Cornwall, Lanark County, Smiths Falls, and Ottawa) all have to agree and pass similar bylaws. There are so many jurisdictional boundaries, school board boundaries, transportation boundaries and bus fleet contracts that they make putting stop arm cameras into use next to impossible.

According to the Ontario Traffic Councils’ now dormant working group on stop arm cameras, ownership of the program, some technological issues, and the cost to put the system in place are all challenges. The OTC also says that the revenue generated from stop arm cameras will not likely cover the cost. All this is to say, under the current structure, except in limited circumstances, there is little chance for wider adoption. This is why the provincial government, through Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria, should take another look at the legislation. Clearly leadership from the provincial government is needed, as is funding, resources, and a province-wide mandate.

Traffic cameras, including stop arm cameras, are not supposed to be revenue-generating for a government. These measures, like most other traffic measures are meant to act as much as a deterrent as they are to prosecute those who break the law. A poorly enabled piece of legislation does not move the needle on this badly-needed safety/deterrence measure. Statistics show the number of incidents of drivers disobeying bus lights continues to increase; near misses have increased. Action and leadership is needed as there are too many parties involved. How long will it be before there is a preventable tragedy? Why do we need to find out?

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