GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With most schools now back in session, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office is reminding drivers about a new law involving school buses.
It’s an issue we’ve most likely all seen, school buses dropping or picking up students and being passed by busy drivers.
Prior to October 2021, drivers couldn’t be punished for passing a bus unless an officer caught them in the act. After a new law was passed, that all changed. Police can now use video recordings captured by a school bus when an officer isn’t present to issue a citation.
“It’s hard to speak to any trends yet,” Sgt. Eric Brunner said. “I think that cameras on buses is still relevantly new. However, we welcome that. It does help us investigate more thoroughly.”
Districts such as Rockford and Hudsonville Public Schools have cameras on their buses. News 8 rode along with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office to see if the recent law is making a difference and if drivers are being more aware.
“Last year, I followed a couple different buses, just followed them for their morning routes, and some bus drivers are even getting to the point where they almost park their buses on an angle in the roadway, as a blocking force,” Kent County Deputy Sheriff Mike Scalici said.
Kent County officials are reminding drivers of what not to do when approaching a bus stop.
“When you see those red school bus lights going on, please stop,” Brunner said. “Keep at least 20 feet away from those school buses and don’t make any attempts to pass it.”
Brunner said vehicles on a two-lane road traveling in both directions must stop. If you’re on a multi-lane road traveling in both directions, you must stop. If you’re driving on a divided highway, vehicles behind the bus must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction are directed to proceed cautiously.
“We’ve trained the students not to cross until we give them the signal to cross, but you never know what a first grader is going to do (or what) a kindergartner’s going to do,” Matt Puett, transportation director for Rockford Public Schools, said.
Brunner said if a driver gets caught passing a bus, they will often issue a warning. However, their top priority is keeping kids safe as they head back to school.