By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota State Patrol is issuing a reminder to motorists after more than 100 stop-arm violations were reported by school bus companies in the first 15 days of school.

According to the agency, there have been 161 stop-arm violations reported so far, and that’s just from 40 of the state’s 326 public school districts.

READ MORE: What Are The Road Rules For Driving Near School Buses?

“​​It’s distracted driving without a doubt,” Bruce Gordon, with the Department of Public Safety, said. “They forget the buses are out there, they’re in a hurry, they’re on their cell phones.”

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.

Video showed a school bus driver, Jim Perrotti, had his red lights flashing and his stop arm out. The 20-year-old driver blew through the stop arm and missed the fourth-grader by inches.

Minnesota law says a driver must stop 20 feet from a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended.

READ MORE: ‘This Is Not A Bus Driver Shortage. This Is A Bus Driver Crisis’: Tempers Up As Districts Cut Routes

“Twenty is good, 50 is better. If you can be further away from the bus when it stops to allow the children to move in the roadway to get to on the bus or off the bus safely, that’s the best thing to do,” Gordon said.

The State Patrol is keeping a watchful eye out for violators that put the lives of children and bus drivers at risk.

Stop arm violators can face a $500 fine. Criminal charges are possible if a driver goes around the stop arm and a child is off the bus. The fines and charges increase if a driver passes the bus on the right-hand side.

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

Reg Chapman