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Bipartisan bills tackle school bus safety

Flickr User Greg Goebel

A bipartisan group of lawmakers say school busses need to be more secure.

A package of bills would make it a crime to enter a school bus without the permission of the driver. In some cases, it would be a felony. The busses would also be allowed to have a sticker saying that people trying to get on without permission could be arrested.

A bigger focus of the package of bills for student transportation advocates, involves preventing people from illegally passing stopped school busses.

Katrina Morris is the president of the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation. She said they did a survey this year of about one thousand of the more than 15-thousand bus drivers. They were asked how many times they were passed illegally. In one day, the total was 508 times.

“Our children are at risk and we need to let the public know that’s not okay,” Morris said.

The bills are two-fold. One part would allow special cameras on school busses and standardize that practice. The second part would increase the penalty for passing a stopped school bus from a civil infraction to a misdemeanor. That way law enforcement could use the videos of a car that illegally passes a bus.

Fred Doelker, Traffic Safety Coordinator for Dean Transportation, a school bus company, said school bus drivers and passengers need more tools to discourage people from passing stopped school busses.  

“There’s just not enough reason now for someone to not pass our busses,” he said.

Bill sponsor, Representative Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) is a bill sponsor. He said he hopes the cameras would also act as a deterrent to people driving around school busses as kids get off.

“We all know that people act differently when somebody’s watching,” he said. “The mere fact that we’re going to put cameras on this or allow districts to do it I think is huge.”

The bills, HB 5038—HB 5042 have had a committee hearing and are waiting for a committee vote. During the committee hearing, no lawmakers expressed concern with the bills and no one spoke against the bills.