Michigan Looks to Strengthen Penalties Against Drivers Who Pass School Buses

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Michigan Looks to Strengthen Penalties Against Drivers Who Pass School Buses

michigan school bus law

Synopsis

  • The highest injury risk for school-age children who take the bus happens while entering or exiting the bus and struck by another vehicle attempting to pass illegally.
  • Local lawmakers are looking at harsher penalties under new bills in the state Legislature to prevent school bus-related accidents caused by motorists who knowingly or repeatedly pass school buses.
  • Lack of bus light knowledge and phone distractions are possible causes for school bus-related incidents according to Michigan State Police, requiring driver reminders to keep an eye out for kids, slow down, stay alert, and always stop when approaching a school bus.
  • When a school buses’ overhead lights are flashing yellow or red, drivers should be prepared to stop. When hazard warning lights are flashing, drivers should proceed with caution.

Michigan Looks to Strengthen Penalties Against Drivers Who Pass School Buses

Michigan drivers who fail to stop for a school bus displaying its stop sign could face harsher penalties under new bills in the state Legislature, according to a September 4, 2019 report by Michigan Radio. Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-East Lansing) and Representative Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) have introduced Senate Bill 472 and House Bill 4867 aimed to punish drivers who ignore school bus signals and put children and other motorists at risk by knowingly or repeatedly break the law.

The lawmakers said more driver education is needed and fines should be raised to from $100 to $250 for a first offense. Additional offenses could cost drivers between $500 and $1,000, and lead to the suspension of their driver license.

Serious Injuries Can Occur If A Child Pedestrian Was Hit

Similar to most pedestrian crashes, if a child crossing the road, waiting at a bus stop, or while exiting or entering their bus is hit by a vehicle attempting to pass a stopped school bus, injuries will be life-threatening and can include:

  • traumatic brain injuries 
  • musculoskeletal injuries
  • soft tissue injuries and lacerations
  • chest and abdominal injuries
  • internal bleeding
  • spinal cord injuries
  • injuries to the upper and lower legs and knees
  • wrongful death

Even a young pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 10 mph is likely to sustain injuries. These can lead to long-term disabilities, emotional stressors for both the child and their family, and financial struggles.

Motorists Should Question Their School Bus Safety Knowledge

According to the American School Bus Council, an estimated 25 million elementary and secondary school children ride school buses to and from school, and 480,000 buses provide transportation each day. And still, many drivers continue to disregard school bus STOP arms and blinking lights positioned to guide children safely across the road. Help keep Michigan children stay safe by testing your school bus stopping knowledge.

  1. Do you stop when you first notice a school bus has turned its overhead yellow lights to flashing?
  2. Did you stop at least 20 feet away the last time you saw the red lights of a school bus flashing (unless you were driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway)?
  3. Were you cautiously approaching and slowing your vehicle down near a school bus to look for signs that indicate child pedestrians may be present?
  4. During your daily commute, even if you do not see a school bus, do you watch for children waiting near school bus stops or crossing the road to wait by one?
  5. Do you ever drive distracted by your phone? Do you check e-mail or text, or listen to voice messages while driving?

If you weren’t sure how to answer even one of these questions or are unaware of your driving behaviors in school zones and when approaching a school bus or bus stop, review the driver safety laws below.

Michigan School Buses Should Be Treated Like Traffic Signals

Although school buses are still the safest mode of transportation for children traveling to and from school, Michigan State Police report the majority of bus-related deaths and injuries involve school-age children who are struck by a bus when they are exiting to cross traffic. Injuries are often critical if not fatal.

As a reminder, in Michigan, school buses should be treated like traffic signals. This means:

  • When overhead lights are flashing yellow: Prepare to stop
  • When overhead lights are flashing red: Stop
  • When hazard warning lights are flashing: Proceed with caution

Drivers should be prepared to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing and stop at least 20 feet away for buses when red lights are flashing unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

Additionally, if you have a child who rides the bus remind them to stay in sight of their driver, never to play near a stop, never hurry off the bus and to always check traffic first, and to never return to the bus after exiting.

michigan car accidents

Many Agencies Are Also Responsible for School Bus Safety

Michigan State Police are charged with inspecting school buses once a year and give each vehicle a pass, yellow sticker noting defects, or a red sticker noting kids cannot be transported in it. Michigan parents can keep track of school buses that didn’t pass the state’s annual safety inspection by reviewing the Michigan School Bus Inspection Report posted after each September 1. School districts and bus companies should also be doing their part to ensure rigs, routes, and equipment are safe for the school year. This includes:

  • training drivers
  • keeping up on maintenance work including lights and STOP arm equipment
  • designing safe bus routes
  • having school zone safety plans in place for bus traffic
  • purchasing buses equipped with new safety features such as LED lights
  • updating old buses with camera systems to track and report offenders

While these are all proactive actions, they may not be enough. Can you help by identifying a school zone or community bus stop where you see Michigan drivers routinely disregarding the safety of children? If you can, capture the risky drivers on video and then report it to your local school district and Michigan State Police.

Child Pedestrian Accident Injury Lawyers

If your child has been injured in a school bus crash or pedestrian accident, the motor vehicle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg are ready to use our decades of experience to help your family move forward and start the healing process. Not only can a personal injury lawsuit help ease financial burdens, but it can also help create change in a system that poses serious dangers to other kids every single day.

Please call and speak to our car accident attorneys at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form.

Also read: Dangerous Street in Macomb County Sees Another Fatal Crash

Video Transcript

If you’re injured as a pedestrian, whether you’re walking across the street or riding a bike, and you’re hit by a car, you’re absolutely entitled to sue that a driver for pain and suffering. You’re also entitled to Michigan no-fault benefits.

Even if you don’t have your own car or your own Michigan no-fault policy, you can sue the person who hit you for those benefits. And that would include getting your medical bills paid, getting your wage loss paid, and if you need some personal assistance, anything that’s an economic loss to you, you can sue that driver for.

If you have been injured by an accident, contact one of our experienced Michigan injury lawyers for a FREE consultation to see how we can help: 1-800-LEE-FREE.

By |2019-09-17T14:20:26+00:00September 17th, 2019|Bus Accident, Legal News, Michigan News, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death|0 Comments

About the Author:

Eric joined the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg, P.C to fight for injury victims throughout Michigan. He has been selected to Super Lawyers and is a member of the National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40. A graduate of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, he devotes 100% of his practice to representing victims who have been injured by the negligence of others. He is on the Executive Board for the Michigan Association for Justice.

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