GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Just like a traffic light, when school bus stop signs are ignored, the results can be disastrous, even deadly.
In April, a high school student in Marne suffered critical injuries after he was hit by a car while crossing the street to get on the school bus.
Police say the driver ignored the flashing red lights on the bus and slammed into him.
Drivers blowing past or going around the bus is a growing problem in West Michigan.
It’s a violation that’s not always east to report or enforce.
Every day, twice a day, students pile onto the big yellow bus.
By far, our most precious cargo.
“The most important thing is safety,” said Forest Hills Public Schools bus driver Lee Goulet.
“You have to drive in this day in age defensively, everybody is in such a hurry that there are all kinds of scenarios that happens,” he said.
During a Fox 17 investigation, our cameras captured violator after violator, putting kids and drivers at risk.
Forest Hills District Supervisor of Transportation Darryl Hofstra says they see drivers, on average, violating the school bus laws twice a week.
“People going around, the ones that are really frustrating is the ones that don’t even slow down or stop at all,” said Hofstra.
He says the reasons range from distracted driving to just not knowing the rules.
“One of the issues I think is people not understanding what to do,” he said.
The bus is its own mobile traffic unit.
When the yellow lights are on, that means caution and prepare to stop, just like a yellow traffic light.
If the red lights are flashing and the stop sign is out, that means stop no closer than 20 feet from the bus.
On multi-lane roads with no divider or median, the rules apply to all drivers.
“People think I’m on the other side of the street maybe I don’t have to stop, if there is no physical barrier between the opposing traffic lanes then anytime those red lights come on traffic has to stop,” explains Hofstra.
However, not everyone does.
Fox 17 placed our cameras on the side of the school bus to capture multiple angles and we caught several violators in action.
During one instance, the school bus was completely stopped with flashing reds on and the sign clearly out.
Students are getting off and the bus driver honks, but a vehicle on the other side of the street speeds past anyway, followed by a second and a third.
“My drivers have had some scary close calls,” said Hofstra.
When it comes to violations, bus drivers don’t hesitate to write up drivers.
In 2013, 27 complaints were filed with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office by Forest Hills Public drivers.
District leaders say man violations go unreported because nobody caught the license plate, making it tough to enforce.
The hope is with more awareness, there will be fewer violations, and a safer trip to and from school for millions of students.
Some school districts are moving toward new camera technology on the buses that capture the violator and take a picture of their plates, but each camera is between $300 to $400, which not in most district budgets.