Schools, Law Enforcement Now Using Cameras to Curb School Bus Stop Arm Violations
MICHIGAN CITY, IN – March 11, 2022 –– Michigan City Area Schools, the Michigan City Police Department, and the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office have an important message for motorists: If you disregard an extended school bus stop arm, you will be held accountable.
Beginning March 14, MCAS school bus drivers will note the date, time, and location each time a motorist passes a school bus that has its flashing lights on and stop arm extended. The violations will be reported to law enforcement, which will then issue citations to the vehicle’s owner, based on video evidence provided by cameras installed on the side of the buses.
According to La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake, consequences for stop arm violations can range from a fine of $167 to a greater amount if imposed at the discretion of a judge. Drivers could also face a license suspension of 90 days, even for the first offense, and up to a year for a repeat offense.
“Passing a stopped school bus is not just an infraction, it is a crime,” said Lake. “In some cases, it can be a felony if the driver causes injury to another person. The safety of our children should be our highest priority.”
According to Sue Harrison, MCAS Director of Transportation, bus drivers documented 28 stop arm violations during a recent one-day safety audit. “This is something our drivers see happening multiple times a day, every day,” she says. “We hope that these citations will be a wake-up call to drivers who continue to put children at risk.”
Of the 62 buses operated by Michigan City Area Schools, 31 currently have stop-arm cameras. Seven more will be installed this school year. Harrison said that in the future, all buses will be equipped with the devices, which can capture high-resolution images of license plates, even in low-light conditions.
According to Captain Jeff Loniewski of the Michigan City Police Department, many of the violations within Michigan City limits occur on Ohio Street, Franklin Street, and Highway 212. “Information from the cameras will not only help us in issuing citations, but will also help us determine areas where we should increase patrols during the morning and afternoon bus runs,” he said. He noted that MCPD is applying for a grant through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute that would help pay overtime to officers who are working to enforce stop arm laws.
Captain Andy Hynek of the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office said county stop-arm violations often occur in rural areas, where speed is a factor. “Imagine a bus on Highway 20, with students boarding as steel haulers and other vehicles fly past, sometimes around hidden curves,” he said. “It’s very dangerous. Hopefully, when people realize there are cameras watching, they will slow down.”
Sgt. Andrew Hahn of the LCSO said that many violations take place on non-divided, four-lane highways. “Some drivers may not realize that they are required to stop on these highways,” he said. “Indiana law states that all motorists must stop when a school bus is on a multi-lane road without a barrier or median, when red lights are flashing and the stop-arm is extended.”
MCAS school buses transport students for at least 12 hours each day, on routes that run between 5:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., along with many after-hours runs for athletics and other extracurricular activities. To help ensure student safety, bus monitors are present to help escort students on most elementary routes, and on all buses serving preK and special education students.