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Breaking the Law, Breaking Hearts: The Sinister Fallout 


It seems nearly impossible, or at least improbable, that a driver would decidedly pass a school bus with its arm extended for children to cross. This practice, largely a result of distracted driving, texting while driving, or even watching YouTube while driving, is not only illegal but poses a significant risk to the safety of children.
Yet, its become quite common as drivers assess that they can safely pass the bus or don’t even realize they are doing so until they are cited for a crime. Recent court records highlight the severity of the school bus stop arm issue. From 2018 through 2022, more than 2,000 motorists have been cited for disobeying state law, emphasizing the need for increased awareness and compliance with traffic regulations around school buses.

Specifically, police officers in Wayzata have witnessed a concerning number of violations. Since the commencement of the 2023-2024, school year, officers have identified and cited 30 drivers for ignoring school bus stop arms. The gravity of the situation is underscored by the fact that five motorists faced charges of gross misdemeanor school bus stop arm violations in recent months because children were present outside the bus at the time of their violation.

The legal basis for penalizing those who pass a school bus with the stop arm out is found in Minn. Stat. §169.444. This statute explicitly outlines the obligations of drivers when encountering a school bus displaying a stop-signal arm and flashing red lights. The law reads as:

Subdivision 1. Children getting on or off school bus.

“When a school bus is stopped on a street or highway, or other location where signs have been erected under Minn. Stat. §169.443, subdivision 2, paragraph (b), and is displaying an extended stop-signal arm and flashing red lights, the driver of a vehicle approaching the bus shall stop the vehicle at least 20 feet away from the bus. The vehicle driver shall not allow the vehicle to move until the school bus stop-signal arm is retracted and the red lights are no longer flashing.

Subd. 1a. Passing on right. No person may pass or attempt to pass a school bus in a motor vehicle on the right-hand, passenger-door side of the bus when the school bus is displaying the prewarning flashing amber signals as required in Minn. Stat. §169.443, subdivision 1.

Subd. 2. Violations by drivers; penalties. (a) A person who fails to stop a vehicle or to keep it stopped, as required in subdivision 1, or who violates subdivision 1a, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $500.

(b) A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor if the person fails to stop a motor vehicle or to keep it stopped, as required in subdivision 1, or who violates subdivision 1a, and commits either or both of the following acts:

(1) passes or attempts to pass the school bus in a motor vehicle on the right-hand, passenger-door side of the bus; or

(2) passes or attempts to pass the school bus in a motor vehicle when a school child is outside of and on the street or highway used by the school bus or on the adjacent sidewalk.”

According to Minn. Stat. §169.444:

Stopping Requirement: Drivers are required to stop at least 20 feet away from the bus when the stop arm is extended and remain motionless until the stop-signal arm has been retracted, and the red lights are no longer flashing.

Consequences of Violation: The law imposes significant penalties for violations, reflecting the potential harm such actions can cause, especially to school children. The enforcement efforts in Wayzata, where gross misdemeanor charges have been filed, emphasize the seriousness of the offense and the potential consequences.

The alarming number of citations issued over the past four years, as indicated by court records, is a stark reminder of the urgent need for public awareness and adherence to traffic laws around school buses. Parents, drivers, and the community at large must take the time to think critically while driving and recognize the potential devastating consequences to a child and heartbreaking consequences to the driver.

If you are cited for these offenses, there are defenses that Campoli Law can provide, but the best defense is no need for a defense.

When in doubt about the validity of a citation, or even the need to hold a driver accountable, The Law Office of Lauren Campoli, can provide expert civil and criminal guidance in these circumstances.

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