Drivers: Practice good school bus safety in your “village"
Sept. 30, 2021
After a year of seeing very few (if any) school buses in your neighborhood, you may have spent the past month getting used to navigating the streets with the big yellow vehicles again. Now that schools are back to full-time, in-person learning, it's important to remember there are very specific laws when it comes to driving around school buses. They're all designed to keep students as safe as possible.
For example, state law requires all vehicles to stop for school buses when the bus driver activates the flashing lights and has the stop arm fully extended. Despite the fact that most schools were not operating in person for most of 2020, over 500 drivers were still charged with violating that law last year in Minnesota. And in the first 15 days of school this year, drivers continue to risk the lives of our children getting on and off the bus. Bus companies reported 161 stop-arm violations so far this school year. The reports are from only 40 of the 326 public school districts in Minnesota.
Any driver who violates the stop-arm law faces a $500 fine. If they pass a school bus on the right, pass it when a child is outside the bus, or injure or kill a child, they could face higher criminal charges. In short, it's not worth it.
Fortunately, obeying the law isn't difficult. Whenever you see a school bus, expect it to stop – especially during the morning and afternoon hours. Give it plenty of room (20 feet at a minimum), and as always, stay off your phone and put other distractions away.
If you have kids who ride the bus, help them remember to look carefully to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder. If they need to cross the street, they should wait until the bus driver signals that it's safe to do so. And when they're crossing the street, either to get on the school bus or to go home, remind them to make eye contact with motorists before they cross.
As the saying goes, it takes a whole village to raise a child. That includes keeping children safe. As their village, it's up to all of us to drive responsibly so that students can get to and from school safely.