Lawmaker seeks to increase fines, penalties for motorists who disregard flashing lights

LANSING, Michigan – State Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-Meridian Twp.) will introduce legislation Wednesday that will amend the Michigan Vehicle Code to further protect children who ride a school bus.

“The safety of our children is of utmost importance,” Sen. Hertel said. “We need to make sure drivers are aware of their surroundings and know the consequences of their failure to comply with established safety laws. As a father of four school-age children, I know how important it is to ensure that our children are protected.”

Sen. Hertel’s bill would modify two sections of Michigan’s Vehicle Code, which provides a standard for traffic laws designed to facilitate traffic flow and reduce traffic crashes, including:

  • Giving the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office the right to suspend licenses for second and subsequent violations; and,
  • Increasing the fines for a first offense by $150 — from a minimum of $100 to $250 —
    while keeping the maximum fine amount of $500, and adding a fine for second and subsequent offenses in the range of $500 to $1,000.

Nearly 18,000 buses transport 860,000 students to and from school daily, according to the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation.

More school children are hurt outside school buses than inside as passengers. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 2004 to 2013 show that 327 school-age children died in school transportation-related crashes, and there were 42 school-age pedestrians killed who were eight to 13 years old.

In March, a driver from Calhoun County hit and critically injured a 12-year-old boy trying to board his school bus. The motorist failed to stop and ignored both the bus’ red flashing lights and extended “stop” arm sign.

All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that’s stopping to load or unload children. Michigan law requires motorists to make a full stop of at least 20 feet from the school bus when the overhead red lights of a school bus are flashing. The law applies to drivers on both sides of the road, unless a barrier divides the highway.

“Drivers need to be educated so they know what their legal responsibility is when they encounter a school bus with flashing lights on,” Sen. Hertel said. “This is a critical public safety issue, and updating the law is just one part of the process.”