District school buses to be fitted with strobe lights

Peggy Revell

School buses across the district soon will be outfitted with strobe lights thanks to Safe Communities Rainy River District (formerly the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition).
The project, meant to increase the visibility of school buses on the road, first arose when the safety coalition was looking at Safe Kids Canada and the Safer Routes to School programs, said co-ordinator Grace Silander.
“There were a few of us that have travelled in Manitoba and, of course, when it’s blizzards and snowing, either that or it’s foggy, you see those strobe lights miles before you can even make out that it’s a school bus,” Silander noted.
“So we decided that . . . when there’s so many students that are bused to school [locally], that that would be about the best bang for our buck.”
While the safety coalition first met last year with bus drivers, who were enthusiastic about the strobe lights, there was a bit of a snag in going forward, Silander acknowledged.
“There was word out that there was going to be a legislation apparently to be passed concerning strobe lights, so we held off for a bit just in case we went out and got something and then they mandated a certain strobe light,” she explained.
“But apparently, even if legislation is passed, they will not say that you need ‘X’ strobe light. They’ll just say that there needs to be an operational strobe light.
“So we can be ahead of the game,” Silander enthused.
She said the cost of the strobe lights will be covered from both the CN funding the safety coalition has secured two years in a row and its own funds.
“The reason that we got it with CN is because buses stop at rail crossings,” she remarked. “So that [buses] will be visible a long way back, and so there won’t be a collision that pushes them into a train and things like that.”
Each strobe light will cost $80-$100, Silander said, but when there are 20-30 children on each bus, that’s cheap when it means they will be safer.
Once the first of the strobe lights arrive, the initial step will be to install them on the rural school buses, she explained, noting these buses often are sharing the road with tractor-trailers and logging trucks—vehicles that can’t stop on a dime.
Bus drivers will be the ones installing and maintaining the lights once they arrive.
“We’re hoping to have the first few buses install them before the end of this school year, and hopefully by September we’ll have a lot of them on,” said Silander.
“I think it’s a positive thing. I think the safety coalition has the right idea,” said Iron Range Bus Lines Inc. operator Terry Higgins, who expressed his gratitude to Safe Communities Rainy River District for stepping up and helping to defray the cost of the strobe lights for bus companies.
“It’s like anything else in this day and age, it comes down to cost,” Higgins said, noting that Iron Range Bus Lines does have a few buses with strobes.
“It’s not a federally- or provincially-mandated thing that school buses have to have them,” he added. “It’s an option at this point, but it’s definitely a good thing.
“It’s a good idea because it increases the visibility of the school buses, particularly on the rural routes where there can be inclement weather,” Higgins continued, noting that in the La Vallee area especially, there is quite a bit of morning fog at times.
“Anytime that you can increase the visibility on a school bus, you can prevent accidents—and that would be the main thing,” he stressed.
“We couldn’t do our part if it wasn’t for the municipalities backing us in our efforts,” Silander said, referring to the projects Safe Communities Rainy River District help out with.
“And if anyone has any more ideas about areas that we should be concentrating on, they should come out and have their voice on the table at our March 31 priority setting session,” she added.