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Minn. School Bus Safety Bill Aims to Protect Students

KSTP TV - Former school teacher, now Republican lawmaker, Rep. Dean Urdahl, of Grove City filed a bill to increase fines and penalties for drivers who passes or attempts to pass the school bus in a motor vehicle when a child is outside the bus.

"The purpose is to try to help with a little more safety for our students when around school buses,” Rep. Urdahl said.

In Minnesota, school buses make at least 10,000 trips daily picking up kids.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, in the past five years, there were 533 school bus crashes, resulting in seven deaths and 211 injuries to those involved.  

Urdahl heard a private study that found an estimated 72,000 violations occur around school buses in the state every year.

Last month, a semi driver who narrowly missed a girl getting on a school bus in central Minnesota in May was sentenced. Allen Morris, 48, of Apple Valley was sentenced in Kandiyohi County court to 245 days in jail and two years of probation.

"That's a huge number we have to deal with in some way," Urdahl said.

The South Washington County School District, No. 833, transports 18,000 students a day on 130 buses.

"There are concerns every day,” Ron Meyer, District Transportation Director, said. “Pretty much every day we have one or several stop arm violations.”

No matter the weather, you’ll find crossing guard, Betsy Brummer, in her yellow safety vest outside Lake Middle School in Woodbury.

The former member of the Minnesota Air National Guard now spends her days protecting children outside the school when sometimes distracted drivers come their way.

"They are trying to get to work, or get home from work they don't always pay attention,” Brummer said.

During the morning and at dismissal time, you can find Woodbury police traffic officer, Scott Melander, watching for traffic violators outside the district schools.

"Especially when the yellow lights come on, slow down,” Melander said. “Prepare to stop, you know the right lights are coming on, is it worth the text message, you are doing or is it worth the child's life?"

With the weather warming up Melander urges drivers to pay even more attention around school zone and when following buses.

"In the spring you see more kids walking and biking to school, or a little extra time getting off the bus," Melander said.

The school bus safety bill was first read in a House committee on Tuesday.