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How to prevent school bus accidents involving children and pedestrians

School is now officially in session. People in Michigan know that school officially started September 4 this year, and now is a good time to remind drivers and parents how avoid bus accidents. More importantly, let’s keep children safe around school buses.

As a lawyer, I’ve sadly seen two types of bus accident injury cases. The first involves people injured on buses due to bus driver negligence, and this is a topic I just finished discussing at the How to Win Trucking Cases seminar last week. But there is a second type of common bus accident that results from us – from drivers and motorists – who have forgotten the law for driving around school buses.

More school children are hurt outside school buses than inside as passengers. And most children who lose their lives in bus-related crashes are pedestrians, four to seven years old, who are hit by the bus or by drivers illegally passing a stopped school bus, according to the National Safety Council.

In fact, school bus related crashes killed 134 people and injured an estimated 11,000 people across the country in 2005, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Michigan’s law on stopping for school buses

Here is MCL 257.682, the Michigan law regarding stopping for school buses:

How far you must stop: The driver of a vehicle near a school bus that has stopped and is displaying two alternately flashing red lights must make a full stop at least 20 feet from the school bus and cannot proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer activated. This includes roadways going in two directions, that are undivided.

If you fail to stop or pass the bus: The driver of a vehicle who fails to stop or passes a school bus will be responsible for a civil infraction, which includes fines and costs. In addition to the civil infraction, a judge, district court referee or magistrate may order a person who breaks this law to perform up to 100 hours of community service at a school.

If the highway is divided into two roadways with a barrier: If you’re driving on a highway that’s been divided into two roadways by leaving “an intervening space, or by a physical barrier, or clearly indicated dividing sections so constructed as to impede traffic,” you are not required to stop upon meeting a school bus that has stopped — if you are on the other side of the road.

Sharing the road safely with school buses and child pedestrians

Here’s a list of driving safety tips from the National Safety Council. Keep these tips in mind next time you come upon a school bus.

  1. It’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus: All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that’s stopping to load or unload children.
  2. What yellow flashing lights mean: School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert drivers that they’re preparing to stop.
  3. What red flashing lights mean: Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals to drivers that the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus.
  4. The most dangerous area around the bus: The area 10 feet surrounding a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to give children enough space to safely get on and off the bus.
  5. Be alert. Children are unpredictable. And those walking to or from their buses are usually comfortable with their surroundings, making them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways before crossing.
  6. Never pass on the right. Passing a school bus on the right is illegal. Even worse, you could hit a child, injure or even kill them.

Here are some safety tips you can share with your children about traveling to school.

– Steven Gursten is recognized as one of the top bus accident lawyers in the country. He is head of Michigan Auto Law and also a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, where he works on serious bus accident cases from around the country. Steve is past president of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Truck Accident Litigation Group, and is a member for the AAJ Bus Accident Litigation Group. He was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck and bus safety.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by woodleywonderworks

Related information to protect yourself:

Michigan bus accidents

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our bus accident lawyers.

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