In September of 2020, Ontario passed legislation allowing for the installation of stop-arm cameras on Ontario school buses. This legislation allows municipalities to install cameras on the exterior of school buses to capture images of vehicles that pass a school bus while it is stopped with the lights flashing and stop-arm extended. The registered owner of the vehicle would then receive a ticket by mail. A number of Ontario municipalities have already installed school bus stop-arm cameras, and other municipalities (such as the City of Thunder Bay) will be considering whether to implement the use of these cameras this summer.

The stop-arm’s purpose is to halt traffic in both directions when a school bus is picking up or dropping off young passengers. The stop sign effectively creates a temporary cross-walk, allowing children getting on or disembarking from the bus to safely cross the street before traffic resumes.

Chances are, you have either witnessed a driver pass a school bus with its stop-arm extended in the past (or may have even passed one yourself). Needless to say, passing a school bus with its stop arm extended is dangerous and can easily result in injury to others (whether other vehicle occupants or children entering or exiting the school bus).

When am I Permitted to Pass a School Bus?

Under the Highway Traffic Act, drivers must stop when approaching a stopped school bus with its overhead red lights flashing. However, you do not need to stop if you are approaching the bus from the front (“head-on”) and you are separated from the bus by a median.

If a school bus only has its hazard lights on, drivers may pass with caution.

School Bus Stop-Arm Camera Legislation in Ontario

Sections 175(11) and (12) of the Highway Traffic Act, allow photographs or videos taken by school bus stop-arm cameras to be used in evidence when issuing tickets for failing to stop for a school bus.

Sections 175(11) and (12) require a driver to stop when a stopped school bus has its “overhead red signal lights” flashing. A failure to stop can result in a driver being fined up to $2,000 and given six demerit points for a first offence. Subsequent offences can result in a driver being fined up to $4,000, receiving an additional six demerit points, or even spending up to six months in jail.

Have Cameras Decreased School Bus Accidents in Ontario?

Studies show that school bus stop-arm cameras work. According to the Manager of Student Transportation Services in Thunder Bay, speaking with the CBC, municipalities that are using this method have seen their rates of drivers passing school buses drop to 30-35% of the original numbers. He further estimates that school buses are passed when their stop arm is extended approximately 4-8 times per day. Bear in mind that these numbers come from anecdotal evidence obtained from drivers reporting the incidences, meaning that these numbers could be even higher if bus drivers fail to take note of a driver passing them.

Safety Tips When Driving Near School Buses

Respecting school bus drivers isn’t just the law – it’s the right thing to do to ensure that no one is injured. Consider some of the following tips for staying safe and avoiding accidents involving a school bus or one of its passengers:

  • Do not pass a stopped school bus with its stop-arm out;
  • Be aware of your surroundings. For instance, if the school bus has just stopped or started, it’s likely there will be children around;
  • Slow down and prepare to stop if the bus’s lights are flashing;
  • Study the rules regarding school buses. If you aren’t familiar with the various lights and signs on a school bus, and what they indicate to drivers, become aware. For instance, the following page from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation provides a great overview of the rules of the road for school buses: School bus safety (

Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

Bus accidents are rare compared to those with other motor vehicles such as cars and trucks. When they do occur, the resulting injuries can be disastrous. At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers will work tirelessly to help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries. If you are involved in an accident, whether as a passenger, driver, or pedestrian, we have the experience and skills to tackle the legal aspects of your claim and allow you to focus on your recovery.

We recognize that no two claims are the same, which is why we give each client the personalized attention needed to bring about the best possible resolution. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with a member of our personal injury team.


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