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Michigan legislators are looking at ways to make school buses safer

A yellow school bus driving down the road

Michigan lawmakers are discussing ways to makeschool buses safer.

The House Judiciary Committee reviewed a package of bills during a hearing Tuesday.

State Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) backs a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized person to board a school bus.

O’Malley says the legislation is intended to protect children and the bus driver whose job it is to get them to school.

“And do it on icy roads...on crowded roads...with potentially 50 screaming kids in the back seat,” O’Malley told the committee. “The last thing they really need is someone trying to get on that bus and cause them more trouble.”

But Democratic lawmakers worry this could be used to keep parents off the bus. 

“This bill would give a bus driver the ability to stop me at their discretion getting on the bus to help my disabled daughter,” says State Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids).

More testimony on the bill is expected next week.

Less controversial is legislation to allow cameras to be installed on school buses to help catch motorists who drive past stopped school buses.

“By allowing the stop arm use camera footage to be used this will help law enforcement to be able to still give them the penalties and to give them a fine,” says Katrina Morris, with the Michigan Association of Pupil Transportation. 

Passing a stopped school bus is a misdemeanor, punishable with a $500 fine.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.