HOWARD CITY, Mich. (May 20, 2014) — The conflict and concern over a bus route seem to boil down to a disagreement over a policy, and what’s best to keep the affected students safe.
Lisa Briggs’ children take the bus to Tri-County Area Schools each day. Their bus stops are located on both sides of M-82 near the intersection of Cottonwood Avenue in Howard City.
“There’s so much traffic. Ya know, it’s not safe for the kids,” Briggs said.
She has a number of concerns, and she brought them to both FOX 17 News and the school district.
Her concerns include buses stopping on the shoulder of the 55 mile an hour highway with only their yellow hazard lights blinking. Bus drivers don’t use their red lights which would signal other drivers to stop.
“They’re just doing hazard light stops, not controlling any traffic and having semis blowing by as kids are getting on and off the bus,” Briggs said.
Tri-County Area Schools Superintendent Al Cumings said it’s unsafe for district buses to use their red lights on M-82, since vehicles are traveling at least 55 miles an hour.
“On a road like 82, if we have multiple stops, that really impedes traffic and can be dangerous… especially for the vehicles coming up on each other and the vehicles coming up on the bus,” Cumings explained.
FOX 17 spoke with Michigan State Police Sergeant Jill Bennett over the phone. She said, while school districts
have laws to follow regarding busing, districts also have their own discretion on how to operate in some areas.
Sergeant Bennett said the district can use its hazards as long as there is enough space to pull over to the side of the road.
The sergeant said she looked at M-82 on a map and can understand Briggs’ concern that there isn’t very much shoulder space for bus drivers to use.
Cumings said it’s incumbent upon bus drivers to voice any safety concerns. Also, he said it’s a safety priority to not impede traffic.
“That’s something that we’ll have to continue to make sure our bus drivers are doing at that certain location and that stop and any stops where we’re using our hazards,” Cumings said.
Briggs and other parents, Jodi and Paul Butler, would like the bus to pull off of M-82 completely and onto Cottonwood Avenue. They want the bus to block the intersection. Both Cumings and Briggs said this was done for a length of time during the school year before drivers were told to stop.
Briggs said she talked to ranking officers with the Michigan State Police and the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department.
“They told me that it was preferred not to block an intersection, however, if it was for the safety of the children, it was preferred,” Briggs said.
However, Cumings said, “We’ve talked to multiple people, including people who’ve consulted with the state and made it clear to us that, that’s not a good option to block an intersection. Along with the Michigan State Police, right in their recommendation is … do not block the intersection.”
Fore more on the Michigan State Police stance on school busing, click here.