The West Bloomfield School District and the Keego Harbor Police Department are partnering up to ensure the safety of students in Keego Harbor and around the school district.

The West Bloomfield School District and the Keego Harbor Police Department are partnering up to ensure the safety of students in Keego Harbor and around the school district.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Keego Harbor police chief, WBSD encourage bus safety

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published November 21, 2018

 When a bus’s overhead lights are flashing red, drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus unless they are driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

When a bus’s overhead lights are flashing red, drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus unless they are driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

KEEGO HARBOR/WEST BLOOMFIELD — A string of school bus incidents across the nation involving kids being injured by vehicles has prompted local authorities to encourage bus safety.

The violation for passing a school bus flashing its red lights is a $335 fine and three points added to the driver’s license, the Keego Harbor Police Department posted on Facebook Nov. 13.

Recent incidents across the country have involved cars striking and injuring, even killing, students as drivers illegally passed buses.

In Michigan, when a bus’s overhead lights are flashing red, drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus unless they are driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

When hazard warning lights are flashing, drivers may proceed with caution, but they must be prepared to stop.

“In light of recent tragedies involving children at bus stops, the Police Department has collaborated with our school system to enforce school bus safety and bring greater awareness to motorists. Our children’s safety is our greatest priority,” the post states. “Drivers should slow down when the bus’s overhead lights flash yellow.”

Police Chief John Fitzgerald said in a follow-up phone interview that three points are also added to a driver’s license for failure to stop at the proper intersection or red light, disobeying a crossing guard, careless driving, improper passing, and going over the speed limit by 11 to 15 mph.

“The court sets fines — each district sets its own fines,” he said, adding that Keego Harbor is under the 48th District Court’s jurisdiction. “We really don’t see too many violations of it.”

Fitzgerald said that almost every day, one to two patrol cars are out during school drop-off and school pickup times, either on the roadways or where the buses enter and exit at Roosevelt Elementary School.

“At school bus stops throughout the city, we are always paying attention,” he said of safety violations. “We are very un-lenient.”

He added that it is up to the drivers to be paying attention, because kids don’t always do so.

Fitzgerald also said that when a school bus’s yellow lights are flashing, that means to slow down; when its red lights are flashing, it means stop.

“Stop, always. … Don’t speed up and try to pass it.”

Police recommend that motorists slow down in school zones and residential areas while watching for children walking in the street, especially in areas where there are no sidewalks.

West Bloomfield School District Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator Daniel Durkin said in an email that there have not been any car injury-related incidents that he has been made aware of this school year.

“We want to echo the sentiments from the Keego Harbor Police Department’s recent Facebook post on the importance of bus safety,” Durkin said. “This is a good reminder for everyone in our community to slow down and use caution around school buses.”

Durkin added that with the recent time change and winter road conditions looming, they appreciate the use of caution by drivers at each of the bus stops and schools. “We are proud to partner with all of our police departments to ensure the safety of our students, staff, families and community members,” he said.

Fitzgerald said that he works with school administrators at Roosevelt Elementary School and Abbott Middle School in West Bloomfield to ensure that students and their safety are the top priority, especially during pickup and dropoff times.   

Orchard Lake resident Gretchen Beatty, whose children attended West Bloomfield schools and whose grandkids are at Roosevelt and Abbott, thanked the Keego Harbor Police Department on its Facebook post for watching the crosswalk across Cass Lake Road by the school.

“It’s a great way to make motorists aware,” she said in a follow-up message, adding that she is very concerned about red light violations.

The former school transportation manager originally from Nova Scotia said that it is impossible for bus drivers to watch kids and report red light violations when the bus is dropping kids off.

“What helped with us was students in the back seats of the bus who took down license plates, vehicle description and, if possible, driver description,” she said. “I was aware of the red light violations as I did a one-month study.  Other counties in Nova Scotia followed, and the violations were high.”

They gave the license plates with vehicle and driver descriptions to authorities. “I can only imagine how many violations happen now with all (the) texting and driving.”

Fitzgerald said that while he hasn’t seen a lot of bus safety-related incidents, the Police Department takes enforcement seriously when violations occur.

“We are pretty strict. ... A lot of people have common sense,” he said, adding that a lot of the roads in the city have 35 mph speed limits. “It gives you a chance to stop.

“Everyone slow down and be careful around the kids,” Fitzgerald said.

Staff Writer Kayla Dimick contributed to this report.