MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As students get back to class, school bus drivers ask us to pay extra attention on the roads.

According to a Minnesota State Patrol school bus driver survey from April 2018, too many drivers don’t stop when they’re supposed to. About 2,800 drivers reported seeing almost 600 illegal passes in just one day.

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So what are the road rules for driving near school buses? Good Question.

Bus drivers will turn on the amber flashing lights at the top of the bus, about 100 yards before the bus stops. Drivers don’t need to stop at that point, but Kevin Bisek, general manager of American Student Transportation, says drivers should slow down and keep an eye out for children.

Once the red lights come on and the stop sign juts out from the side of the bus, state law says oncoming drivers and those behind the bus must stop at least 20 feet away. Bisek says 20 feet should be a minimum, and recommends 50 feet.

“Don’t pass through, don’t use it as a regular stop sign, it’s not stop and look both ways and proceed,” says Bisek. Drivers must remain stopped until the stop sign comes back up and the red lights are off.

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“It’s distracted driving without a doubt,” says Bisek. “They forget the buses are out there, they’re in a hurry, they’re on their cellphones.”

In 2016, the State Patrol gave out 1,318 tickets for stop-arm violations. The law changed in 2017 to raise the fine from $300 to $500.

Cameras on the busses can help law enforcement catch drivers in the act. That’s how a man in Rosemount was caught in 2017 when he just barely missed a girl getting off her bus and crossing the street.

“If an officer gets a complaint, we have up to four hours to find the driver and make an arrest for a violating a stop arm law,” says Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

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If the road is a divided highway, drivers in opposing traffic don’t have to stop for the buses.

Heather Brown