On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Minn. hikes fines for failure to stop for school bus

Share story

Law enforcement agencies around the state wrote more than 1,300 tickets last year to drivers who failed to stop for a school bus with its lights flashing and crossing arm extended.  

Now, drivers will have to fork over an extra $200 if they ignore the school bus stop signs. A new state law that goes into effect today raises the fine to $500. 

"It is a big issue. I think a lot of it has to be with drivers being distracted by things in their car," said State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson. 

The number of actual offenders is likely much higher than those who received citations, Nielson said. Over the past six years, nearly 9,000 drivers have been issued citations.  

On just one school day earlier this year, during an annual survey, the more than 3,600 school bus drivers across the state reported 703 stop arm violations. 

"You'd be surprised and shocked," said Derrick Agate, president of the Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation. 

Agate also serves as supervisor for transportation for Hopkins Public Schools. Sometimes he'll ride along with drivers who complain about a high number of motorists disregarding the stop arm. 

"I was blown away. It's like a regular thing for them, they didn't even stop, they didn't even slow down, for students crossing," he said.

Agate's group has been lobbying for the increased fine for the past five years.

"With this increased fine, we want it to hurt, because we don't want any kids to get hurt," he said. 

Last year a driver who failed to stop for a school bus killed a 7-year-old boy near Thief River Falls when he was crossing the street to board his bus. 

Earlier this year two Rogers High School students were seriously injured by a driver who failed to stop for their bus. Agate said there have been numerous other close calls. 

In addition to getting the word out to motorists about the increased fine, the Minnesota State Patrol's Nielsen said students also need to pay attention. 

"If students pause when they hop off the bus, just to peek around the corner," she said, "that will help keep some of these situations from becoming tragic."