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Use Caution Around Stopped School Buses

As school bus related accidents have made national headlines recently, local law enforcement agencies would like to emphasize the importance of driving without distractions.  Both police departments in the cities of Hancock and Houghton say that they’ve seen an increase in drivers who unlawfully pass a stopped school bus, creating a safety concern.

“We’ve had a number of incidences where we’ve had people pass school buses with their lights on. After doing investigations we’ve actually issued citations to drivers. One of the biggest excuses we’re getting is they just weren’t paying attention and it was too late to stop once the lights went on,” said Hancock Police Chief Wayne Butler.

It’s true that cell phones have made our day to day tasks easier to accomplish, but has our addiction to technology affected our ability to be aware of our surroundings?  Our vehicle’s control features require more interaction than in years past, causing a driver to navigate through several digital pages just to change channel or connect a blue tooth device.

“We’ve seen an increase in rear end collisions. The rear end collisions, the majority of them are just from either following too closely or not paying attention, whether it’s cell phone or kids in the back seat, or listening to the radio or whatever,” said Butler.

Last week distracted driving claimed the lives of six children in the United States, and sent five more to the hospital. Locally, law enforcement agencies are doing their part to remind drivers to stop for school buses and keep our children safe.

Butler said, “So we’re just asking people, when you see the red lights on the bus just know that a child could be crossing the road from in front of that bus from one side of the road to the opposite side, across both lanes of traffic. So when you see those lights start turning, prepare to stop and stop because we obviously would not like anything to happen to not only the children but to a motorist as well.”

Both Houghton and Hancock Police departments say they’ve noticed an increase in distracted driving. The idea has surfaced involving dash cams on local school buses to help battle the problem, but a more preventative method is also needed. All 50 states have laws stating that motorist need to stop at school bus crossings, even if that bus is in the opposing traffic lane. That also includes multi lane roads such as M-26 and US 41.

“What’s required by law is you have to stop (for a school bus with red lights flashing) unless there’s a barrier. A barrier would be something like on an interstate or a major highway where there’s a build up of a barricade between either a guardrail or a raised median. But if it’s just a regular center lane or an open roadway, you need to stop,” Butler said.

Safety laws also require a driver to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles on the shoulder while its lights are active.

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