What to know about new, old Michigan school bus laws for drivers

Illegally passing a stopped school bus could cost you

School bus parked in lot with stop sign displayed (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

School is back in action in Michigan and that means school buses are back on the road.

It’s a great time to remind drivers about what laws they have to follow around school buses and in school zones. The majority of bus-related deaths and injuries involve pedestrians - mostly children - who are struck by a bus or injured when they are exiting the bus to cross traffic. So let’s get into it.

School bus zone and danger zone

Typically -- the rule of thumb for safety is: Anyone who can touch the bus with an outstretched arm is TOO CLOSE to the bus.

School Bus Zone & Danger Zone (DEAN)

What drivers should do around school buses

  • Prepare to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing
  • Stop at least 20 feet away from buses when red lights are flashing, unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway
  • Slow down in or near school and residential areas
  • Look for clues-such as safety patrols, crossing guards, bicycles, and playgrounds-that indicate children might be in the area
  • Watch for children between parked cars and other objects

School buses are just live traffic signals.

  • When overhead lights are flashing yellow: Prepare to stop
  • When overhead lights are flashing red: Stop
  • When hazard warning lights are flashing: Proceed with caution
School bus traffic light chart. (DEAN)

School bus safety tips for students:

  • Always stay in sight of the bus driver
  • Don’t hurry off the bus; check traffic first
  • Don’t go back to the bus after exiting

Possible penalties for drivers

Those who pass stopped school buses may be charged with civil infractions carrying a fine between $100 and $500. Violators may also be required to perform up to 100 hours of community service at a school.

What’s new this year?

Signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2021, school buses can now be equipped with cameras and police can use those images to issue tickets to drivers who pass illegally. It’s unclear how many buses are currently equipped with cameras in Michigan, but districts are allowed to do it.

Before the new law, police had to witness the illegal pass personally before taking action.

Another new law prohibits anyone from entering a school bus without permission of the driver. Violations of the school bus trespassing law are punishable by up to a $500 fine.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.