PORT HAWKESBURY: September 6 was the first day of school, and it didn’t take long for a report of a red light violation to make its way to the Strait regional school board (SRSB).

Red light violations occur when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers. A bus flashes red lights and a stop sign extends from its sides, when allowing kids on or off. This is a signal for motorists to stop and remain stopped until the red lights finish blinking.

Across the province, there were a shocking number of red light violations last academic year, as over 1,500 such instances were reported. A total of 54 violations were reported in the area served by the SRSB.

On the first day of school for the 2017-18 school year, there was a report of a red light violation in Port Hawkesbury.

“It’s scary in a lot of ways,” said Sherman England, director of operations for the SRSB.

“We have small and not-so-small children getting off buses who could become a victim of someone’s inattentiveness. It’s so important that the safe actions of all drivers ensure that our children travel to and from school safely every day.”

Last year’s reports were spread out throughout the months. They were also spread out geographically, but Highway 105 and the Town of Port Hawkesbury proved to be hot spots for the activity.

“The most disheartening part was that we had nine violations through the month of October, school board safety month,” England said.

Bus drivers often bring the reports to the school board, but pedestrians and motorists can report red light violations as well. They are welcome to bypass the school board and go straight to the RCMP, England noted, though the SRSB is willing to take such reports as well.

Thirteen busses out of the SRSB’s fleet of 110 are equipped with cameras to capture such activity. Evidence such as digital recordings is always welcome to the RCMP.

The police take such infractions very seriously. A first time offense for a red light violation can mean a fine of $410 and six points off a license.

Speeding in a school zone can net drivers a first offense fine of $352.50 (and two licence points) for travelling 15 kilometres an hour (km/h) over the speed limit; a fine of $467.50 (three licence points and a seven-day license suspension) for travelling 16-30 km/h over the speed limit; or a fine of $697.50 (four licence points and a seven-day license suspension) for travelling 31 or more km/h over the speed limit.

Sometimes, as England mentioned, it’s not just police who discipline drivers. He said he knows of some commercial drivers who, due to red light violations, had to deal with their employers for their actions behind the wheel.

“We want people to slow down in our school zones, and we want people to pay real close attention to students who are either walking or waiting for school buses,” he said, adding that drivers ought to stay out of bus loops at schools as well.