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Plan to increase school bus safety in Michigan heads to senate

Posted at 4:35 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 16:35:45-04

LANSING, Mich. — School bus safety and keeping children safe is a top priority for both school districts and parents.

In Michigan, there's new legislation that has been passed by the Michigan House Of Representatives and is now on its way to the state senate which aims to improve school bus safety.

Four bills make-up this bipartisan legislation which aims to improve school bus safety by restricting who's allowed inside the school bus and adding cameras on stop arms.

READ THE BILLS: House Bill 4201, House Bill 4202, House Bill 4203, House Bill 4204.

"The end goal is to make sure parents can feel confident in the model, knowing that their kids will be riding the bus safer," said State Rep. Mark Huizenga of Walker.

Huizenga, who represents the 74th District and is also a member of the Transportation subcommittee, says he supports the bipartisan plan and says keeping kids safe is always a top priority.

"This gives us a real chance to put a little bit more teeth to things, adds a few more details to make things a little bit more enforceable, and adds video so that people can can actually be identified as those that are violating," he said.

The proposals will:

- allow stop-arm cameras to be installed on buses. the video or images captured from vehicles passing school buses illegally would serve as evidence for law enforcement and prosecution.

- allow a sticker to be placed on the side of a bus stating unauthorized people attempting to board, without permission from the bus driver, are subject to a civil infraction and fine.

Both offenses would be civil infractions fined payable up to $500 and violators could also have to perform up to 100 hours of community service.

"Enough is enough" said Kellie Dean, the CEO and President of the leading transportation company, Dean Transportation, which provides bus services to more than 100 school districts here in Michigan.

Dean says this legislation would give law enforcement the tools they need to convict violators.

"This is a critical issue and it's just not in West Michigan or the state of Michigan it's across our nation," Dean said.

As far as the local impact, Dean Transportation says there are as many as 500 buses that will be impacted under this legislation.

In 2019, Michigan State Police reported nearly 2,100 citations were issued to drivers for failing to stop for a school bus, the most in the last 10 years.

According to a survey of drivers from back in 2019, drivers allegedly passed school buses illegally more than 500 times in one day.

"It just makes you cringe at how serious this whole nature of this issue is and that we have to do something," Dean said. "Everyone's life will change when there's an incident and we in our business travel millions of miles per year and we need to do everything possible to get the highest level of protection for for all of our passengers," he said.

These proposals however are not enforced by the state, each school district can decided if they want to add these safety features to their buses.