A school bus stop can be a perilous situation because there are potentially young children running across a public roadway to get aboard without regard to their own surroundings. Due to the immaturity of these students, the burden is on other drivers to pay attention and come to a complete stop when there is a stopped school bus in the area to avoid a tragic accident. The failure of the other driver to obey these laws can result in some surprising penalties.
Here are the legal requirements for drivers encountering school buses under the law:
- “The operator of a vehicle overtaking or meeting a school bus that has stopped and is displaying 2 alternately flashing red lights located at the same level shall bring the vehicle to a full stop not less than 20 feet from the school bus and shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated.” MCL 257.682(1).
- “The operator of a vehicle upon a highway that has been divided into 2 roadways by leaving an intervening space, or by a physical barrier, or clearly indicated dividing sections so constructed as to impede vehicular traffic, is not required to stop upon meeting a school bus that has stopped across the dividing space, barrier, or section.” MCL 257.682(2).
To strengthen enforcement efforts, the law allows “proof that the particular vehicle described in the citation was in violation of [this statute], together with proof that the defendant named in the citation was, at the time of the violation, the registered owner of the vehicle, constitutes a rebuttable presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation.” MCL 257.682(3). Despite the prosecutor’s burden of proof to show an offense was committed, the defendant may have to produce some evidence that he or she was not the driver of the vehicle despite being the registered owner (assuming the owner’s contention is that he or she was not the actual driver at the time of the offense).
The penalty for failing to stop for a school bus, passing a stopped school bus or violating a similar local ordinance relating to a school bus is a civil infraction punishable as follows:
- A fine between $100.00 and $500.00, plus costs. MCL 257.907(2).
- 3 points added to your Michigan driving record.
- The judge, district court referee, or district court magistrate may order up to 100 hours of community service at a school. MCL 257.682(4).
The area lying within 20 feet of a school bus that has stopped and is displaying two alternatively flashing red lights at the same level is known as the “school bus zone”. MCL 257.601b(5)(c). There are heightened penalties for traffic violations or other crimes occurring in a school bus zone that all Michigan drivers should be aware of:
- A person responsible for a moving violation in a school bus zone is subject to a fine that is DOUBLE the fine otherwise prescribed for that moving violation. MCL 257.601b(1).
- A person who commits a moving violation in a school bus zone that is punishable by at least 3 points on his or her driver’s license record and, as a result, causes INJURY to another person in that school bus zone, contrary to MCL 257.601b(2), is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by:
- A fine up to $1,000; and/or
- Up to 1 year in jail
- 6 points added to Michigan driving record.
- A person who commits a moving violation in a school bus zone that is punishable by at least 3 points on his or her driver’s license record and, as a result, causes DEATH to another person in that school bus zone, contrary to MCL 257.601b(3), is guilty of a felony punishable by:
- A fine up to $7,500; and/or
- Up to 15 years in state prison
- 6 points added to Michigan driving record.
A person accused of failure to stop for a school bus is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. A person accused of a misdemeanor or felony will be arraigned on criminal charges and is entitled to a trial by judge or jury. It is possible that the court can excuse the civil infraction if you can show that the school bus failed to use proper lighting signals or that some other emergency prevented you from making a complete stop (e.g. avoiding a certain vehicle collision). An attorney can help you present an effective defense or may be able to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor that reduces or eliminates many of the potential penalties.
If you need legal representation for any traffic violation, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.