Driver Awareness Around School Buses

Ted Heinonen

It’s not often that I get on the old soapbox but with a new school year just around the corner I want to remind everyone about the importance of safe driving and awareness around school buses. I’ll be starting my 3rd year as a part-time school bus driver here in the Duluth area, it’s one of a number of part-time jobs I work at to make ends meet and it has had it’s moments, both fun and terrifying. From my drivers seat above I see folks reading texts and actively practicing their manual dexterity returning that text, applying make-up, sorting all manner of items in that bag on the passenger seat, eating crereal from a bowl (really, I saw this) and these are just a few of the multi-tasking activities I've seen. I know we all are in a hurry but it just takes a few seconds to go from a great day to the worst you've ever known. So I just want to remind all of you fellow communters out there of what your responsibilities are.

Tips for students and motorist to keep buses safe

According to the Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation, the majority of children injured or killed in pupil transportation are not injured or killed on the bus, but outside of the bus by motorists who fail to stop for the flashing red lights and extended stop arm.
We all want the children in our community to be safe. These safety tips apply not only to motorists, but to the students who are waiting, boarding and unloading from the bus.


• Always stop for a school bus when the red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended – even on a two- or three-lane road.
• If you intend to turn onto a street where a school bus is stopped and the red lights are flashing, stay stopped in your original lane until the lights are turned off and the stop arm is withdrawn, and even then watch for the kids and where they are.


• Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and the street.
 • Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter.
 • When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk 10 giant steps away.
• Use the handrail to enter and exit.
• Stay away from the bus until the driver gives the signal that it is safe to approach or cross.
• Protect yourself by being alert and aware of the traffic around you.

School Bus Stop Arm Violation

According to Minnesota law, when a school bus is stopped on a street or highway and is displaying an extended stop-signal arm and flashing red lights, a person approaching the bus is required to stop their vehicle at least 20 feet away from the bus. The driver must not move their vehicle until the school bus stop-signal arm is retracted and the red lights stop flashing. Failure to do so is a crime.
It is also illegal to pass or attempt to pass a school bus on the right-hand, passenger-door side of the bus while the school bus is displaying the pre-warning flashing amber signals.
A person who fails to stop a vehicle while a school bus has its stop-arm extended is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $300.
A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor if they fail to stop their motor vehicle which is chargeable as a gross misdemeanor punishable by a $3,000 fine and/or a one-year jail sentence if they commit either or both of the following:
• Passing or attempting to pass the school bus in a motor vehicle on the right-hand, passenger-door side of the bus
• Passing or attempting to pass the school bus in a motor vehicle when a school child is outside of and on the street used by the school bus or on the adjacent sidewalk Passing a school bus in such a situation endangers the lives of children. Police and prosecutors take these crimes very seriously.
And just to let you know, bus drivers  are encouraged to radio in to the dispatcher, the violator’s license number, model, make and description. There have been a number of drivers who “Were in a hurry toget home” that have been surprised by a partol car waiting for them with a ticket.
The time it takes to load or unload at the average school bus stop is just about 30 seconds or more, - pretty short time to insure the safety of our kids.
Let’s give them that time.