When Vancouver drivers are caught running a red light, they’re in for a hefty fine -- but the rules of the road might not apply if the driver is behind the wheel of a city bus.

An investigation by CTV News in Vancouver revealed that bus drivers in the city have been exempted from paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines resulting from red light tickets.

Over the last five years, bus drivers amassed approximately 230 tickets from automated red light cameras. With each ticket racking up a $167 fine – that adds up to nearly $40,000.

Instead of the paying the fine, drivers are given a warning, a day of training and a reminder that a repeat offense could lead to a suspension without pay.

In 2002, B.C. transportation authority TransLink challenged a red light ticket in court, arguing that their system of warnings, training and possible suspension was equally as effective as paying a fine.

A bus driver has not paid a red light ticket since the 2002 case.

However, the same precedent does not exist in other major Canadian cities.

Transit authorities in Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Toronto told CTV News they require drivers to pay any tickets for traffic violations.

The head of the union representing the TransLink bus drivers argues that their system of discipline is a more effective deterrent than paying the fines.

“It’s way more costly if you get more than one ticket than if you pay out of pocket because if you look at a three-day suspension, that’s a lot of pay out of drivers’ pockets,” Don MacLeod told CTV British Columbia. 

However, MacLeod said the number of driver suspensions resulting from repeated red light infraction is minuscule – estimating that one or two drivers have been suspended without pay over the last 10 years.

MacLeod added that drivers have to weigh many factors as they drive, including whether it’s safe to stop suddenly with passengers aboard.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time it’s not about paying attention,” MacLeod added. “It’s because he or she made the decision, ‘I have no other choice here.’”

B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond said she was unaware that bus drivers were exempted from red light ticket fines until the CTV investigation.

“I’m surprised that there appears to be a separate standard, but I’ll certainly take a look at it,” she said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it’s concerned that the city is not collecting on a significant amount of fines, while taxpayers are left covering the cost of bus driver training.

“There are two sets of laws in this country,” Jordan Bateman said. “One for government workers, and one for the rest of us.”

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jonathan Woodward