According to the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning, most school bus-related deaths and injuries involve children struck by a bus or injured when they are exiting the bus to cross traffic.
In 2020 alone, Michigan reported 461 crashes involving school buses. To protect Michigan’s children, the state’s Legislature enacted rules limiting drivers’ actions when around school buses. Continue reading to learn more about school bus safety and the new safety laws in effect.
Michigan Vehicle Code allows drivers to pass a school bus if it is in motion or its red lights are not flashing. You are also allowed to pass a bus when you are going in the opposite direction of the bus on a divided highway.
You cannot pass a school bus that has stopped and is displaying two alternately flashing red lights located at the same level, or has its stop arm extended. You are prohibited from moving until the red lights on the bus stop flashing, its stop arm is withdrawn, or the bus begins moving. Drivers are required to stop at least 20 feet from a school bus.
You should yield and prepare to stop when a school bus has its yellow lights flashing or hazard lights activated. When the stop sign arm on a school bus is extended, traffic in both directions is required to stop and allow passengers to exit and cross the roadway.
Violating the law is a civil infraction that results in a fine and three points being added to the driver’s motor vehicle record. Those points remain on your license for the next two years and can result in increased insurance premiums. Drivers face additional sanctions such as restrictions or suspension if they have prior violations. The judge or magistrate also has the discretion to add up to 100 hours of community service at a school.
With a focus on improving child and school bus safety, the Michigan legislature passed two amendments to Michigan’s Vehicle Code effective as of Oct. 11, 2021.
The first amendment allows school buses to be equipped with external stop-arm camera systems and describes the minimum-required camera capabilities. Under the law, the stop arm camera systems must consist of at least two cameras capable of capturing images or video of vehicles and their license plates, when a vehicle unlawfully drives around a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing. The images must be time, date, and location stamped.
Law enforcement can now use that video and photographic evidence to confirm violations, making it easier to enforce violations. Before this change, police officers needed to personally observe a driver passing the school bus’s stop-arm sign. The availability of images and video footage shifts the burden of proof on the vehicle’s owner to prove that they were not driving the car at the time of the infraction. Passing a school bus while its stop-arm is extended results in a $500 fine. Passing vehicles are the cause of almost two-thirds of school bus loading and unloading fatalities.
The second amendment to the code was enacted to protect bus drivers and passengers after several incidents of parents and other adults angrily entering school buses without consent. This amendment makes it illegal to enter or walk into a school bus without the permission of the driver. Drivers are also prohibited from allowing on the bus or transporting individuals not authorized by the school, such as non-students. Similar to the policy schools have in place to limit visitors and trespassers, school buses are required to display “No Trespassing” and other signage on the bus’s door prohibiting individuals from entering the bus without the driver’s permission. Trespassers are subject to a $500 fine, while drivers who allow or transport unauthorized individuals are subject to a $100 fine.
Most accidents involving school children occur when they are entering and exiting school buses. While we can’t always predict every hazard and danger, as parents there are ways we can keep our kids safe. The following tips can help:
School buses typically do not include seat belts because they are built to protect passengers. Buses have high-back padded seats that are closely spaced to absorb the impact in the event of a crash.
Goodman Acker P.C. can help! We have more than 150 years of experience representing Michigan residents involved in school bus and other traffic accidents. Whether you’re a driver, passenger, or pedestrian injured in a vehicle accident in Detroit or Grand Rapids, our knowledgeable and dedicated team of attorneys can answer any questions you may have. Contact us to discuss options about your case, and let us handle your no-fault claim, work with your insurance adjuster, and obtain all necessary evidence to prove your case.
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