Let’s Keep Our Children Safe As They Commute To School
With the school year now in full swing I would like to review two laws that help protect commuting school children.
The first law involves school buses and their use of lights. School buses are equipped with lights to alert motorists that children will soon be exiting or entering the bus and will likely be crossing the road. When children are going to be crossing the road the driver will first activate two alternating yellow flashing lights. Generally the bus is still in motion when these lights are activated and they are intended to alert drivers that the bus will soon be stopping to drop off or pick up children. When the bus comes to a stop and the door is opened for the children the two alternating flashing yellow lights will turn off and alternating flashing red lights will come on. Most buses in our area have a stop sign that extends from the driver’s side of the bus also.
When the red lights are flashing and the stop sign is extended, motorists are required to stop a minimum20 feet from the bus and wait until the lights are turned off and the sign is retracted before proceeding. Failing to stop and wait until the lights are turned off before proceeding could result in a crash and/or receiving a civil infraction traffic citation (MI motor vehicle code 257.682). Be aware that many buses are now equipped with cameras that capture images of license plates of vehicles that disregard the lights. If the person driving at the time of infraction cannot be identified, the registered owner can be cited.
If the driver of the bus can pull far enough right to leave traffic flow unobstructed (example is a 4 lane road) and children are NOT crossing the road, the driver is only required to activate emergency flashers. If this is the case, remain alert as there are still children entering/exiting the bus.
The guard should first enter in to the roadway alone and make certain traffic from all directions has stopped; unless the guard is using a crosswalk light in which case they may walk with the children. When a crossing guard is in the roadway with a stop sign extended above their head, motorists are required to stop. Failing to stop for a crossing guard with a sign held up could result in a crash, and/or a misdemeanor traffic citation (MI motor vehicle code 257.613d). If the person driving at the time of the violation cannot be identified the registered owner of the vehicle can be held responsible.
Remember that children may not exercise the same amount of caution when crossing a road that an adult might, when crossing the road to enter/exit the school bus or when walking to school. So, if you are driving during school commute times (generally 7:30am-9:00am and 2:30pm-4:00pm) be on the lookout for children on foot and school buses.