+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 18-22F

Regulations for Motorists Passing School Buses with Amber Lights Flashing

November 9, 2022
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2025
Active Status:
Clearwater County
2 - Central
Transportation and Infrastructure
Sent to Government
Vote Results:

WHEREAS roads or highways in Alberta are governed by the Traffic Safety Act (TSA); and

WHEREAS the Lieutenant Governor in Council may enact regulations related to the rules of the road pursuant to section 112 of the TSA; and

WHEREAS the TSA allows peace officers and police officers to fine drivers that contravene speed regulations in school zones or  pass school buses stopped with red lights flashing to drop off or pickup students; and

WHEREAS there are no provincial regulations for drivers overtaking school buses that have stopped with alternating amber lights flashing; and

WHEREAS Alberta Transportation’s recommends that  “if you pass a school bus that has its alternating amber lights flashing, pass with caution”; and

WHEREAS there are speed regulations for many of the other higher risk areas or activities on roadways, including passing emergency vehicles, passing plow trucks, and driving through construction, playground and school zones;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta urge the Government of Alberta  to enact or amend legislation  to address motorists passing school buses with amber lights flashing, and that the legislation include the following: 

  • setting a maximum speed limit of 60km/hour or slower on all roadways when passing school buses, in both directions, with flashing amber lights;
  • providing regulations for roadside signage for school bus stops on primary highways in Alberta.
Member Background:

Motorists need to respect the flashing lights on a school bus, which creates a safety zone for children around the vehicle and are often the children’s only defense when they get on or off the bus. Motor vehicle drivers should watch out for alternating flashing amber lights, which means a school bus is slowing to stop where students will either be getting on or off the bus.

According to Transport Canada, school bus travel remains the safest mode of transportation to and from schools. It is 16 times safer than the family car. Maintaining this level of safety requires motorists to do their parts too.

Alberta Transportation is currently reviewing the 90 km/h speed limit for buses as part of a transportation plan in late 2022. Review changes will not be introduced until the 2022/2023 or 2023/2024 school year.

The Government of Alberta website on school buses advises the following:

When school bus lights are flashing:

On an undivided highway (not divided by a median), do the following:

When you approach a school bus from either direction (from the front or the rear), and it has the alternating amber lights flashing, you must be ready to stop. This is a warning that the alternating red lights are going to begin flashing and the school bus is stopping to allow students to get on or off.

If you pass a school bus that has its alternating amber lights flashing, pass with caution.

When the school bus stops to let students on or off, its alternating red lights will begin flashing. You will also see a stop sign extended from the left side of the school bus. You must come to a full stop about 20 meters (about 4 to 5 car lengths) away from the school bus. This distance allows drivers of other vehicles behind you to see the flashing lights and students crossing the highway.

You must remain stopped until the alternating flashing red lights are turned off and the stop sign on the driver’s side is no longer extended.

These rules apply whenever and wherever the school bus lights are activated. Some municipalities have additional rules for school bus operation within their jurisdiction .

Some municipalities have bylaws that do not require school buses to use their alternating flashing lights when stopping. In this case, drivers do not need to stop but should still be cautious and watch for pedestrians when the buses are loading or unloading students.

In 2020, the Student Transportation Task Force addressed issues facing student transportation services, with the goal to get students to school as safely and efficiently as possible. Student transportation was identified as an item needing further review during meetings with school authorities and charter schools. The task force used the feedback gathered to develop 21 recommendations found in the Student Transportation Task Force: Report to the Minister. Alberta Education began implementing the recommendations through a three-phase action plan in May 2021. Panel recommendations include:

  • Establishing a working group to address concerns related to entry-level training programs
  • Creating audit teams to review school transportation operations
  • Ensuring the funding model is sufficient for legislated school transportation requirements
  • Exploring current speed limits for school buses
  • Working collaboratively with municipalities and law enforcement to ensure there is consistent enforcement of flybys
  • Improving awareness and driver education of school bus flybys (refer to situations when a vehicle passes a school bus that has stopped to collect or drop off students.)

Phase 1 (May 2021)

Two audit teams to review student transportation operations of up to 15 school divisions. A joint working group will be established between the government and task force members to further discuss student transportation issues.

Phase 2 (start by September 2021)

Phase two to focus on enhancing regional cooperation among school divisions. It will also examine a provincial purchasing program for buses, fuel, insurance, and parts.

Phase 3 (complete by September 2022)

Phase three focuses on the development of a student transportation-funding model for the 2022/23 or 2023/24 school year. The current legislated student transportation requirements, including eligibility criteria, will be reviewed as part of this work.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Provincial Ministries:
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