BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - On the surface, it seems like something that would be hard for a motorist to miss -- A big red stop sign and flashing lights -- but people behind the wheel do ignore school bus stop arms, and the results can be deadly.
School bus drivers for the Bloomington Public Schools reported an average of more than 30 stop arm violations a month during the 2013-2014 school year, a number that was jarring for district officials, so they did something about it. Early in 2014 a small video camera was installed on the side of a bus to capture images of motorists who illegally pass while the stop arm is out and flashers activated. When someone broke the law the video was turned over to Bloomington Police.
The experiment was so successful that additional buses have now been outfitted with stop arm cameras. Drivers, consider yourselves warned.
"We want our students to arrive at school safely and to be delivered home safely," said Bloomington Public Schools Superintendent Les Fujitake.
Buses equipped with stop arm video cameras will be assigned to areas of the district where the greatest number of stop arm violations have been reported.
Minnesota law requires motorists to stop and remain stopped at least 20 feet from a school bus when its stop sign and flashing red lights are activated. Red flashing lights indicate that students are either entering or exiting the bus.
It is a misdemeanor offense if a driver does not stop their motor vehicle for a school bus with an extended stop arm. Passing or attempting to pass a school bus on the right-hand side or passing when a student is outside of the bus is considered a gross misdemeanor. A ticket for passing a school bus with stop arm extended and lights flashing usually runs between $300 and $500, depending on the municipality. If a vehicle passes while children are boarding or exiting the bus it is a gross misdemeanor, which can carry a fine of up to $3,000.