School is back in session in Minnesota, and whether you’re crying that your kids are back in school or celebrating with a glass of wine, there’s one change that we all have to get used to – seeing the big yellow buses on the roads again every morning as we head off to work. When the stop arm is engaged, drivers legally must stop or they can be ticketed by police, and you can bet that as distracted driving violations continue to increase, so too will enforcement of this law. Below, we explain how to avoid and contest a stop arm violation.
Stop Arm Violations in Minnesota
Here’s a closer look at the statute of interest:
When a school bus is stopped on a street or highway, or other location where signs have been erected under section 169.443 and is displaying an extended stop-signal arm and flashing red lights, the driver of a vehicle approaching the bus shall stop the vehicle at least 20 feet away from the bus. The vehicle driver shall not allow the vehicle to move until the school bus stop-signal arm is retracted and the red lights are no longer flashing, and;
No person may pass or attempt to pass a school bus in a motor vehicle on the right-hand, passenger-door side of the bus when the school bus is displaying the prewarning flashing amber signals.
If you fail to follow the laws as laid out in this section, you can face significant fines. As the penalty section states, anyone who violates this law is guilty of a misdemeanor offense, which is punishable by a fine of not less than $500.
It’s also worth noting that a police officer doesn’t need to witness the action in order for you to be ticketed. The law also provides that school bus operators can report violators to police within four hours of the incident, and then police can track down and ticket the driver if probable cause exists that the violation occurred.
Contesting A Stop Arm Violation
There are a number of ways that you can contest a stop arm violation. Some ways you can challenge the citation include arguing:
- The arm was not engaged when you passed the bus.
- You were actually driving on a separated roadway, which may make you except from the stopping law.
- The bus driver had the incorrect license or vehicle information when reporting the incident.
- The lights were malfunctioning at the time of the violation.
Be careful with arguing that you didn’t see the lights when you passed, because that narrative isn’t likely to fly. Given the size of the bus and the colors of the lights, it’s nearly impossible to not see a stopped school bus unless you aren’t paying attention to the road, so this argument may only serve to hurt your case. Consider working with a lawyer to go over your legal options and let them find the best defense for your case.
Now that school is back in session, we all have to pay extra attention behind the wheel. Not only can it save us money and prevent insurance increases, but it can also keep kids safe. For help with your school bus-related citation, reach out to Appelman Law Firm today.