I was told the fine for passing a school bus, when the red lights are activated and the stop arm is extended, had recently increased.

State law requires all vehicles to stop for school buses when the bus driver activates the flashing lights and has the crossing arm fully extended. Red flashing lights on buses indicate students are either entering or exiting the bus.

In 2017, the fine for a school bus stop arm/red lights violation in Minnesota increased from $300 to $500.

Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop arm is extended when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

Motorists are not required to stop for a bus on the opposite side of a separated roadway (median, etc.), but they should remain alert for pedestrians. Always reduce speeds in and around school zones, and watch and stop for school crossing patrols and pedestrians in both marked and unmarked crosswalks at all street corners.

Students can also do their part in helping the bus driver focus on the road and help keep themselves safe outside and inside the school bus.

When waiting for the bus, be patient, stand back from road and no running or rowdy behavior.

Before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” out from the front of the bus, or until the driver’s face can be seen and wait for the driver to signal that it is safe to cross. Look left-right-left to be sure all traffic is stopped and continue to watch traffic while crossing.

When on the bus stay seated, listen to the driver and use quiet voices. When getting off the bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder and always make eye contact with motorists before proceeding.

In Minnesota, school buses make at least 10,000 school bus trips daily.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for children, and they are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicles. From years 2013-17, there were 3,451 school bus crashes in Minnesota, resulting in seven deaths.

You can avoid a ticket – and a crash – if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send them to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester, MN, 55901-5848, or reach him at Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us.