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Bipartisan package of bills tackles school bus safety

School bus
Bill McChesney
Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A bipartisan group of lawmakers say school busses need to be more secure.

A package of bills would make it a crime to enter a school bus without the permission of the driver. In some cases, it would be a felony.

The busses would also be allowed to have a sticker saying that people trying to get on without permission could be arrested.

A bigger focus of the package of bills for student transportation advocates, involves preventing people from illegally passing stopped school busses.

Katrina Morris is the president of the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation. She said they did a survey this year of about 1,000 of the more than 15,000 bus drivers.

They were asked how many times they were passed illegally. In one day, the total was 508 times.

“Our children are at risk and we need to let the public know that’s not okay,” Morris said.

The bills are two-fold. One part would allow special cameras on school busses and standardize that practice.

The second part would increase the penalty for passing a stopped school bus from a civil infraction to a misdemeanor. That way law enforcement could use the videos of a car that illegally passes a bus.

Fred Doelker, Traffic Safety Coordinator for Dean Transportation, a school bus company, said school bus drivers and passengers need more tools to discourage people from passing stopped school busses.

“There’s just not enough reason now for someone to not pass our busses,” he said.

Bill sponsor, Representative Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) is a bill sponsor. He said he hopes the cameras would also act as a deterrent to people driving around school busses as kids get off.

“We all know that people act differently when somebody’s watching,” he said. “The mere fact that we’re going to put cameras on this or allow districts to do it I think is huge.”

The bills, HB 5038HB 5042 have had a committee hearing and are waiting for a committee vote. During the committee hearing, no lawmakers expressed concern with the bills and no one spoke against the bills.  

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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