Motorists reminded to be mindful of school buses

October 20, 2023

Motorists reminded to be mindful of school buses

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

West Shore School News is a presentation of West Shore Educational Service District in partnership with Mason County Press and Oceana County Press.

AMBER TOWNSHIP — This week school districts in Michigan are observing Michigan School Bus Safety Week. The West Shore Educational Service District provides educational services to eight school districts and a charter school in Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties. Between WSESD and the other nine schools, there are over 100 transportation drivers and staff who transport over 2,000 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students over 1 million miles annually.

“This particular week is a good time to ask the motoring public to be mindful of school buses,” said Katrina Morris, WSESD director of transportation. Morris often advocates for school bus safety in Lansing. Her efforts, along with efforts of others in public school transportation, are responsible for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to proclaim this week as School Bus Safety Week.

“Our top priority is to make sure that our children make it to school and back home safe,” Morris said. “Our drivers are highly trained and take every precaution they can. But, we safety also depends on the other drivers on the road. Being mindful of school buses and stopping for them when they are picking up or dropping off children only takes a couple minutes and ensures that every stays safe.”

As a school bus approaches its stop the driver will activate the bus’s amber lights. This is a warning to other motorists that they should prepare to stop as the bus will be picking up or dropping off students. When the bus stops, the red lights are activated. Other motorists are required by law to stop — from both directions — and maintain a safe distance.

“It’s important to note that motorists are required to stop in both directions, including on multi-lane roads,” Morris said. Motorists are not required to stop, in the oncoming direction, when there is a road with an unpaved median or a barrier. These circumstances only exist in a few places in Mason, Oceana, and Lake counties, particularly US 31 freeway and the west end of Ludington Avenue (M-116) in the City of Ludington. Motorists are required to stop in both directions on the five lane portion of US 10 just as they are required to stop in any other undivided road.

In 2021, Morris helped lead the effort to assist legislators in passing four new laws that assist even more in school bus safety. The new laws required school buses to be equipped with stop arm camera systems. The video footage of those cameras may be used as evidence.

“Before, a police officer had to witness in person a vehicle failing to stop for a school bus that has activated its stop lights,” said Morris.

Additional laws provided for added protection for bus passengers, allowing for a civil infraction to be issued with a fine of up to $500 for individuals who enter a bus without permission of the driver. An additional law regulated equipment, maintenance, operation, and use of school buses. It added language that allows for warning signs to be placed on buses that state persons entering the bus must have permission of the driver.

During this week, and throughout the school year, please remember to thank your school bus driver,” Morris said. “They are the first representative of the district to greet your student in the morning, and say goodbye in the evening. They have one of the most safety sensitive jobs in the district and your child’s safety is their main concern.”

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