LAPEER — Effective Monday (Aug. 28), all Lapeer County-area school districts will be back in session for the start of the 2023-2024 academic year.
On Aug. 21, school resumed for students at Chatfield School in Lapeer, in Davison, Dryden, Imlay City, Mayville and North Branch — while on Monday school starts in Almont, Brown City, Goodrich, Lapeer, Marlette and at St. Paul Lutheran School in Lapeer.
That means area roads, especially around schools, will see a lot more traffic and drivers will need to be extra vigilant.
Not only are now school buses on the roads, but there will be hundreds of young student drivers including some who earned their driver’s license over the summer break and may be driving to and from school for the first time.
Many students walk or ride bikes to school, so drivers need to be extra alert for children as they cross roads. Slow down in school zones, and watch for kids who may dart across the road outside of marked school crossings.
According to the Michigan State Police (MSP), in 2022 there were nine school bus crashes in Lapeer County that resulted in two injuries. There were also seven property damage crashes that involved school buses.
The MSP’s annual statewide traffic crash data year-end report for 2022 indicated school bus-involved crashes increased 33%, from 785 in 2021, to 1,041 in 2022. Fatalities involving a school bus decreased by 50%, from four in 2021 to two in 2022. October had the highest number of school bus-involved crashes with 136.
The MSP’s 2022 traffic crash report said Mondays had the highest number of school bus-involved crashes. The majority of school bus-involved crashes occurred between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.
The majority of bus-related deaths and injuries involve pedestrians — mostly children — who are struck by a bus or injured when they are exiting the bus to cross traffic. Those who pass stopped school buses may be charged with civil infractions carrying a fine between $100 and $500. Violators may also be required to perform up to 100 hours of community service at a school.
A new law recently went into effect in Michigan that prohibits drivers from talking or texting while behind the wheel of a vehicle, even at a stop light, which school bus drivers and school officials in Lapeer County hope will reduce the number of times distracted drivers pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children.
Think of school buses as if they’re traffic signals. When overhead lights are flashing yellow, slow and prepare to stop. When overhead lights are flashing red, stop. When hazard warning lights are flashing, proceed with caution.
Michigan law requires motorists to stop at least 20 feet away from buses when red lights are flashing, unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway. Drivers are prohibited from moving until the red lights on the bus stop flashing, its stop arm is withdrawn, or the bus begins moving.
Violating the law is a civil infraction that results in a fine and three points being added to the driver’s motor vehicle record. Those points remain on your license for the next two years and can result in increased insurance premiums.