I recently returned from a lengthy trip (2,500 miles) to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Whenever I travel, I am very aware of vehicle and traffic laws, signage, pavement markings, and traffic engineering features other states and/or provinces have.
While driving in P.E.I., I noticed a stenciled sign on a school bus stating a $5,000 fine for passing a stopped school bus. Knowing our laws in New York regarding this violation, I was amazed that the fine was so severe.
I believe that every driver in New York is aware that it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus displaying flashing red lights. However, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 motorists illegally pass stopped school buses in this state EVERY DAY, according to information published by the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, a figure I think is difficult to comprehend, since no one wants to injure a child. Do we commit this violation knowingly, or are we just not paying attention to our driving and perhaps don't even realize our violations?
Information from Troop B of NYSP show 27 tickets issued from January 1 to September 20, just in Troop B, for illegally passing a stopped school bus (section 1174 of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law). Sanctions include fines ranging from $250-$850 and/or jail time from 30 to 180 days. This violation also includes five points on your license.
However, in Prince Edward Island, under the Highway Traffic Act, the same violation carries eight points and fines beginning at $1,000 up to a maximum of $5,000. I believe this would get the attention of even the most impatient motorist! Furthermore, you must stop no less than 20 feet (6 meters) from the front or rear of the bus.
As drivers, we all do unsafe things sometimes, either knowingly or unknowingly, and for various reasons. Unfortunately, our decision to commit an unsafe act or disobey a law often is based on the perception of being caught and what the sanctions might be. We are more prone to violate laws when we think there is little chance of being caught, or if we feel that the fines are comparatively small. This basis for our decisions is unfortunate; we should be more aware of the safety consequences of violating laws rather than the chance of being caught or the fines we may be forced to pay.
For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board's web site at: www.franklincony.org and click on "Traffic Safety Board" under departments then look for Did You Know articles under "services."