Stop for school buses: Fines increase this year

(Sun Sailor staff photo by Paige Kieffer)
Students get off the bus at Minnetonka Middle School West in Excelsior.

State law requires all vehicles to stop for school buses when the bus driver activates the flashing lights and has the crossing arm fully extended, and when school starts next week, drivers who violate that law will face a larger fine when citations increase from $300 to $500.

Motorists failing to stop for school buses continues to be a serious issue that risks children’s lives. During the annual School Bus Stop Arm Survey earlier this year, 3,659 bus drivers across the state reported 703 stop arm violations in just one day.

In the past six years, law enforcement across the state wrote nearly 9,000 stop arm violation citations, up from 1,391 in 2011. “Too often motorists ignore the school bus laws or are too distracted that they don’t see the bus picking up or dropping off children until it’s too late,” said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol. “When motorists violate the law, it puts the lives of children at risk. Drivers should always be looking out for school buses and expect those buses to make frequent stops during the morning and afternoon school hours. Pay attention and stop for buses to help keep our children safe.”

Motorists
In Minnesota, motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights or a stop arm when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

Motorists should slow down, pay attention and anticipate school children and buses, especially in neighborhoods and school zones. The best way to be aware of your surroundings at all times is to put the distractions away.

Students
When getting off a bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder. Wait for the bus driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.

When crossing the street to get on the bus or to go home, make eye contact with motorists before proceeding.