Legal: School buses

Claude Chamberland, lawyer

Q: Hello Me Chamberland. I am a French citizen who recently settled in Quebec. I allow myself to write to you, because we had a little problem today. We committed a traffic violation without even knowing we were doing it. We started at the green light, but there were school buses stopping on the other side of the road. So the police gave us a fine, but we also lose 9 points on the license, which is huge. I wanted to have your legal advice to know what awaited us and if we can do something to improve the situation. -Sabine
A: Hello Sabine. This question is very interesting, because as a Quebec citizen who has been living in France for a few years, I had a lot of trouble understanding when I arrived here that you could pass school buses without any problem in France, as these were not not equipped with the flashing devices or stop signals found on the famous North American « yellow buses ».

In Quebec, the applicable provision is article 460 CSR: 460. The driver of a road vehicle or a cyclist who approaches a bus or minibus assigned to the transport of schoolchildren whose flashing red lights are on or when use is made of his compulsory stop signal must immobilize his vehicle more than 5 meters from the bus or minibus and may only pass or overtake it when the flashing red lights are off and the compulsory stop signal retracted, and only after ascertaining that he can do so without danger. The first paragraph does not apply to a driver of a road vehicle and to a cyclist when they meet a bus or minibus used for the transport of schoolchildren on an adjacent roadway separated by a median strip or another physical device. raised. It is always possible to challenge in court a notice of contravention to the CSR.

All you have to do is read the provisions to this effect on the statement of offense given to you and send a plea of ​​not guilty within the time indicated to the address indicated on the statement of offense prepared by the police officer. However, the defenses to such offenses are relatively limited. Basically, proof beyond a reasonable doubt must be made against you on each of the three constituent elements of the offence, namely: 1. Be driving a road vehicle; 2. Approaching a school bus with flashing lights on, or when the mandatory stop signal is deployed; 3. Failure to stop more than five meters from the bus or crossing, or overtaking before the lights go out or the stop signal is removed.

The judge must therefore be convinced beyond any reasonable doubt as to each of these essential elements. If it is, you will be found guilty and fined. The file will then be forwarded to the SAAQ, which will calculate and establish the loss of points corresponding to the offense committed according to the rules. In practice, it may be interesting to plead not guilty in order to obtain the disclosure of the evidence and have the case assessed by a lawyer. On the one hand, if you already have points in your file, the time it takes for the lawyer to review the file could allow you to eliminate enough points to avoid reaching the normal limit of 15 points for a driver 25 years and older. On the other hand, if you are about to reach the age of 23 or 25, your license could go from 8 to 12 points in the first case or from 12 to 15 points in the second case, which may allow you to retain your licence.

In addition, the lawyer could detect in the evidence in the file flaws likely to raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of a judge for one or other of the three constituent elements of the offense that we have seen above.

Finally, if it is impossible to avoid the suspension of your license, for example if you are under 23 and you are found guilty of having passed a school bus (loss of 9 points when you have 8) , you can ask your lawyer to prepare a request for a restricted license that could allow you to continue driving if your vehicle is absolutely essential for your work.