What’s the fine for passing a school bus?

Q: I was told the fine for passing a school bus, when the red lights are activated and the stop arm is extended, had recently increased.  

A: In 2017, the fine for a school bus stop arm/red lights violation increased from $300 to $500 here in Minnesota.  

Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop arm is extended when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

Red flashing lights on buses indicate students are either entering or exiting the bus.

Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a separated roadway (median, etc.) — but they should remain alert for pedestrians.

Motorists also need to watch for school crossing patrols and pedestrians. Reduce speeds in and around school zones and watch and stop for pedestrians in both marked and unmarked crosswalks at all street corners.

Students can do their part in helping the bus driver focus on the road and help keep themselves safe outside and inside the school bus.

When waiting for the bus: be patient, stand back from road and no running or rowdy behavior.

When on the bus: stay seated, listen to the driver and use quiet voices.

When getting off a bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder.

Before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” out from the front of the bus, or until the driver’s face can be seen and wait for the driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.

Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the bus to make sure traffic is stopped. Keep watching traffic when crossing.

In Minnesota, school buses make at least 10,000 school bus trips daily. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for children and they are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicles.

From years 2013 - 2017, there were 3,451 school bus crashes in Minnesota, resulting in seven deaths.

Here is a video link about school bus safety: https://youtu.be/TS-4aRELaA8

Q: As we are ending the motorcycle season I heard of an individual near Rochester who was killed by going off the road and struck a sign head on. He was not wearing a helmet. Being an individual who has been in a motorcycle accident with the helmet likely saving my life, why are helmets not required in the State of Minnesota for all two and three wheel bikes?

A: In my law enforcement career, I investigated far too many serious injury and fatal motorcycle crashes where a helmet could have made a difference.

There is no helmet law in Minnesota, unless the operator is under 18 years of age or is operating with a permit. Even though there is no helmet law, it is recommended that one is worn to help prevent death or serious injury.

The benefits helmets offer are clear; they protect the head in the event of a crash. In 2018, only sixteen (28%) of the 58 motorcycle riders killed were known to be wearing a helmet. Of the 913 motorcyclists injured, only 416 (46%) were known to be wearing a helmet.

In 2018, 550 (55%) motorcycle crashes were single-vehicle crashes. In these crashes, the factors that reporting officers list most often are run off road (14%), careless/negligent/erratic driving (13%) and driver speeding (9%).

Just under half of all motorcycle crashes involve a collision with another vehicle. In many crashes, the driver never saw the motorcyclist — or did not see the rider until it was too late. It is important for everyone to pay attention and avoid all distractions while driving. We need to be 100% attentive when driving any type of motor vehicle.

My advice is to always wear an approved helmet as it can and will reduce your chances of being seriously injured or killed.

Q: How do “smarter” cars know what the speed limit is on the road? I wonder how accurate they really are.  

A: My advice is to not solely rely on the displayed GPS speed reading for your vehicle’s actual speed. Your vehicle’s speedometer is the best way to determine how fast you are traveling.

A GPS is a positional speedometer. It will show your speed based on the average distance covered off of several readings over the last few seconds and are generally accurate under normal driving conditions.  The speed readings could be inaccurate if there is a temporary loss of signal.

The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single touch activation without holding the phone. Always be alert and be aware of the posted speed limit signs while driving. Remember that the speed limits start and end at where the signs are located.

Send questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811 or neil.dickenson@state.mn.us.

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