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Operation Safe Stop to raise public awareness

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Shown are a pair of school buses. The Houghton County Sheriff’s Office is participating in the week-long campaign Operation Safe Stop, raising awareness about the illegal passing of buses.

HOUGHTON — The Houghton County Sheriff’s Office is participating in Operation Safe Stop, a week-long national campaign, Sheriff Brian McLean said in a Monday release.

The campaign is aimed at reducing the illegal passing of school buses.

“We are all concerned for ours students’ safety,” said McLean, “so, during this week, we will man extra patrols for our school bus zones.”

Operation Safe Stop is part of national School Bus Safety Week, which runs Oct.19-23. In 2019, nearly 2,100 citations were issued to drivers for failing to stop for a school bus, the most in the last 10 years.

Keweenaw County Sheriff Curt Pennala said his office also participates, putting extra patrols on the roads, and at times, deputies will follow buses on their routes to ensure students’ safety.

McLean said he would also like to emphasize to the public to not only be aware of the problem during this week, but during all of the school year.

“With out upcoming winter season, it is even more important to keep reminding ourselves of the dangers the students on buses face every day, and keep our driving safe for all.”

According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, there were 1,197 crashes involving school buses in Michigan in 2019. Of those, 114 happened at bus stops, reported Lower Michigan’s Leader Publications. From the bus stop crashes, there were 42 injuries. Michigan bus drivers conducted a one-day survey in May 2019. In just that one day, the 1,373 participating bus drivers reported 508 times that a motorist passed a school bus illegally.

Drivers should prepare to stop when they see the overhead flashing yellow lights of a bus, and stop at least 20 feet away from a bus when the overhead lights flash red. Drivers 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. Drivers who pass a stopped school bus and cause an injury face a misdemeanor charge and either a fine up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail.

The Michigan State Police (MPS) reports that 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. 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.

Drivers who pass a stopped school bus and cause a death are subject to a felony with either a fine up to $7,500 or up to 15 years in jail.

The MPS website posts: School bus safety tips for drivers:

• 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 like 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 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.

McLean said extra patrols will be added to monitor school bus routes, both on arrival and departure from school, as well as watching for other traffic violation in the zones, such as speeding and erratic driving. Anyone witnessing violations is encouraged to call 911 to report the incident at any time during the school year.

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