Cameras, patrols lead to criminal charges as drivers fail to stop for school buses
School bus cameras showing vehicles driving by stopped buses despite obvious signals to stop are helping lead to criminal charges against the drivers.
In about a month’s span towards the end of last year, one Wayzata police officer pulled over multiple people after seeing them disobey school bus stop arm laws. Now, five people have been charged with at least a gross misdemeanor for their actions behind the wheel.
“The most important thing here, obviously, is the safety of the children,” Officer Brandon Haapoja, with the Wayzata Police Department (WPD), said.
In one instance, three drivers blew by a bus that was stopped with its stop sign out – and in another instance, two drivers almost crashed before continuing past a stopped bus.
While Officer Haapoja was able to pull over some of the drivers, he and investigators relied on school bus cameras to track down the other drivers.
“They’re an extremely valuable tool for supporting [what we saw] and also for us investigating any violations that might be reported to us when we weren’t there,” Haapoja said.
One bus service that has equipped all their buses with cameras is Northstar Bus Lines, out of Maple Grove. Just a few days into the new year, one of their buses captured a driver not stopping for the bus. The bus services say they’ve sent the video to police.
“Really what’s crucial for us is the driver doesn’t have to live in the moment with the investigation,” Nick Martini, senior vice president of operations with Northstar Bus Lines, said. “We want our drivers at the stop focused on the kids focused on their surroundings controlling that.”
Martini says a big problem with this issue is drivers not knowing what to do when a bus stops, or depending on what kind of road they’re on if they have to stop. Learn the laws here.