The Michigan school bus traffic laws prohibit drivers from passing a school bus that is stopped and has its red lights flashing. Drivers must stop at least 20 feet away and cannot resume driving until the bus lights are turned off or the bus begins moving. Stop-arm cameras record drivers who unlawfully pass.
Penalties range from a civil infraction and fines to a possible criminal conviction and jail time if a person is injured or killed during the unlawful passing of a school bus.
No passing when red lights flashing
The Michigan school bus traffic laws prohibit drivers from passing a school bus that has “stopped” and is “displaying 2 alternately flashing red lights located at the same level.” (MCL 257.682(1))
This applies to drivers who are: (1) traveling in the same direction as the school bus (i.e., drivers who are “overtaking” the school bus); and (2) traveling in the opposite direction or in the oncoming traffic (i.e., drivers who are “meeting” the school bus).
Stop 20 feet from a stopped school bus with red lights flashing
When a school bus is stopped and has its red lights flashing, the laws require drivers to bring their vehicles to “a full stop not less than 20 feet from the school bus.” (MCL 257.682(1))
Drivers must remain stopped and “shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated.” (MCL 257.682(1))
Michigan school bus traffic laws for buses stopped on a divided roadway
If you are approaching a stopped school bus and you are driving in the oncoming traffic lane on a divided roadway, then the laws do not require you to stop so long as there is an intervening space, physical barrier or dividing section that separates your traffic lane from the one in which the school bus is stopped. (MCL 257.682(2))
What do yellow flashing lights on a school bus mean?
The Michigan school bus traffic laws do not specifically address this, but the Michigan State Police recommends that you prepare to stop when you see a school bus’s overhead yellow lights flashing.
Additionally, the MSP recommends proceeding with caution when the yellow hazard warning lights on the wheel wells are flashing.
Michigan school bus traffic laws allow “stop arm camera systems”
Michigan school bus traffic laws allow “stop-arm camera systems” to be installed which take pictures and/or video of drivers who unlawfully pass a stopped school bus. The camera also documents the driver’s vehicle and license plate as well as the date, time and location of the violation. (MCL 257.682(4); 257.1820(1) and (3))
The stop-arm school bus cameras can capture images up to 200 feet in front of the school bus and the photos and video obtained is admissible in court against a driver who is charged with unlawfully passing a school bus. (MCL 257.682(4))
Penalties for passing a stopped school bus
Drivers who fail to stop for and/or who pass a school bus that is stopped and has its red lights flashing is responsible for a “civil infraction” under the Michigan school bus traffic laws and are subject to a fine between $100 and $500 as well as court costs. (MCL 257.682(1); 257.907(2)(l) and (4))
The fine is doubled for unlawfully passing a stopped school bus if it occurs in a school zone, which is anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school property line. (MCL 257.601b(1))
The Michigan Vehicle code does not impose points on a driver’s license for unlawfully passing a stopped school bus.
A driver who commits a serious moving violation within 20 feet of a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing and who injures or kills someone may be found guilty of a crime and subject to a fine and possibly jail or prison time.
An injury results in a misdemeanor conviction and a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to 1 year in jail. (MCL 257.601b(2))
Causing the death of another person results in a felony conviction which is punishable by a fine up to $7,500 and/or up to 15 years in prison. (MCL 257.601b(3))
Community service is no longer a penalty for unlawfully passing a stopped school bus as of October 11, 2021. (See amendment to MCL 257.682 per Public Act 50 of 2021)
Be careful about loaning your car to someone
Under the Michigan school bus traffic laws, there is a rebuttable presumption that a person is the driver who unlawfully passed a stopped school bus if there is proof that: (1) the “particular vehicle” described in the ticket committed the violation; and (2) the person was the “registered owner of the vehicle” at the time of the unlawful school-bus passing. (MCL 257.682(3))
School bus safety tips
- Prepare to stop when you see a school bus’s yellow lights flashing.
- Stop at least 20 feet away from a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.
- Do not resume driving until the school bus’s red lights have stopped flashing and you are certain that there are no children milling around the bus and in or near the traffic lane where you will be driving.
- Slow down in and near school and residential areas.
- Always observe and comply with the school zone speed limit.
- Refrain from distractions such as texting, using a cell phone, eating or grooming while waiting for a stopped school bus – pay attention and stay alert to your surroundings to ensure that there are no children in or near the road where you will be driving.
Injured by a driver who violated the Michigan school bus traffic laws? Contact a Michigan Auto Law attorney now
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries after being injured by a driver who violated the Michigan school bus traffic laws and you have questions about your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation, economic damages and auto No-Fault insurance benefits, you can speak to an experienced school bus accident lawyer at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation. You can also get help from an experienced auto accident attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.