School will soon be back in session, and that means the big yellow school buses will be back on the roadways carrying some of our most precious cargo. And while stop-arm violations did decline in 2020, that was likely due in part to the COVID pandemic that led to virtual learning across the state.
Prior to the pandemic, stop-arm violations had been skyrocketing in recent years. In 2018, 1,052 motorists in Minnesota were ticketed for stop-arm violations, and that number rose more than 10 percent in 2019 when 1,166 such citations were issued. And according to bus drivers, that’s just a fraction of the violations that occur. Minnesota bus drivers are sometimes asked to record stop-arm violations they witness on a given day as part of a national survey, and between 2015 and 2019, they averaged more than 600 recorded violations in a single day.
Expect A Ticket
Even with a pandemic keeping kids at home, police still issued 505 stop-arm violations in 2020, and that number is poised to surge in 2021. That’s because police are handing out more speeding tickets and excessive speeding tickets than in years past, and it seems like that could be a recipe for disaster.
If you come up to a school bus with its red flashing lights on and stop-arm engaged, you are required to stop at least 20 feet away when approaching from the rear of from the opposite direction on undivided road. If you are spotted violating the law, you’ll be hit with a minimum $500 fine and the offense will be considered a misdemeanor. It’s one of the more significant fines you can face for a traffic violation that doesn’t cause injury simply because of the danger you’re putting children in. If you pass on the right, the fine will increase and you’ll be hit with a gross misdemeanor.
We’ve helped drivers contest stop-arm violations in the past, but know that they a difficult case to win. Oftentimes its your word against everyone else’s, and given the danger of the maneuver, you’re going to have to go above and beyond in proving your innocence. Sometimes dashcam video or cameras on the bus can help to strengthen your case, but at the same time, they can also seal your fate if they catch you in the act. We’re happy to do all we can to help develop your defense, but in these cases, driving defensively and avoiding a citation is the best play you can make.
And finally, one defense we’ve heard from ticketed drivers is that they “did not know they were violating the law” when they passed the school bus. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, it doesn’t matter. Not knowing the law doesn’t make you immune from punishment, and you’re not going to get any leeway from a judge because you claim that you were unaware of the law. Sometimes there are instances where not knowingly doing something absolves you from guilt, but this isn’t the case with stop-arm violations. This won’t be a defense we’ll pursue.
If you’d rather we do everything in our power to build a strong case or talk to the prosecution to see if a deal can be made that leads to reduced charges, we’ll go to work for you. We don’t want to defend any of these cases this year because we want our kids to stay safe, but if you need an ally after a driving mistake, we’re here for you. Give us a call today at (952) 224-2277.