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Fine For Passing Stopped School Bus Upped To $500

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Beginning tomorrow, drivers will pay a higher fine if they're caught passing a stopped school bus.

State law requires all vehicles to stop when a school bus driver activates the flashing lights and the crossing arm is extended. On August 1st, violators will be fined $500, that's up from $300.

It's one of the first things we learn as drivers... always stop when you're behind or facing a school bus that is picking up or dropping off students.

But in the last six years, police officers across Minnesota have written nearly 9,000 tickets for stop arm violations.

Peter Bachhuber is a bus driver for St. Paul public schools.

"I think part of the time it's people are always in a rush. People are in a hurry. They don't want to get stuck behind a bus because they know that the bus will stop," Bachhuber said.

And he says the drivers of cars and trucks are often on their phones.

"I think a lot of it is distracted driving too, whether it's just talking on the phone. A lot of the time we'll see texting because we're up higher, so we can see down into other people's vehicles," he said.

He's seen his share of drivers breaking the law.

"They just don't pay attention. The bus has red flashing lights and everyone knows red means stop. We are dealing with children. We're dealing with people's babies," he said.

Last winter in Otsego, three students were seriously injured at their bus stop when they were hit by the driver of a pickup truck.

The state patrol hopes the $500 fine will serve as a deterrent to drivers.

"We want to encourage people to pay attention to what is happening around them. And a $500 fine, that's a pretty expensive cost for most people," said Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

The state patrol says a survey of 3,600 bus drivers this year shows 703 reported stop arm violations in just one day.

For more information on school bus safety, click here.

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