Nearly $1.4 million in grants for student school bus safety

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The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) allocated nearly $1.4 million in grants to provide cameras on the stop arm of school buses in order to help protect students as they get on and off the bus.

“We’re seeing an alarming increase in the number of violations that are being observed and reported by [school bus] drivers across the state,” Mike Hanson, director of the OTS, said.

Between 2017 and 2021, law enforcement cited 4,652 drivers for stop arm violations, according to a press release from the Department of Public Safety. State law requires all vehicles to stop for school buses when the flashing lights are on and the stop arm is fully extended.

19 different schools and transportation companies will benefit from this round of grant money — there are two more rounds in this “Stop Arm Camera Grant Project.” In total, law makers have approved $14.7 million for 2022-23.

“We’ll have about 7,000 buses that will be outfitted with the camera systems across the state — that’s about 60% of the buses,” Hanson added.

Previous grant recipients say they recognize how valuable the project is in protecting young Minnesotans.

“As a school bus driver, so many times I’ve felt that sudden fear and frustration because a motorist just disregards a stop arm and drives right past the bus,” said Michael Lane, shop foreman and bus driver, Cloquet Transit, LCS Coaches.

The new grant also provides resources for identifying motorists who fail to stop at flashing lights.

View the Department of Public Safety’s full school bus stop-arm safety video here as well as the full list of phase four grantees here.

OTS says this is about more than just citing drivers — adding this project funds education and awareness efforts to remind drivers to pay attention.

“It’s really important when you look at protecting our most precious cargo, our kids. When they’re getting on and off the bus, the last thing a kid needs to worry about, and the last thing a parent needs to worry about is some driver, for whatever reason, going through that stop and potentially killing or seriously injuring a child,” Hanson said.