A school bus travels along 18 Mile Road, which police say is one of the areas where motorists fail to stop for buses.

A school bus travels along 18 Mile Road, which police say is one of the areas where motorists fail to stop for buses.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Sterling Heights police enforce passing laws with school buses

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 13, 2019


STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights police hopped aboard a Utica Community Schools bus May 8, but it wasn’t because anyone needed a ride or was reliving their high school days.

Local police and the school district recently embarked on a joint effort to ticket errant drivers and teach them the proper way to drive around school buses.

According to Sterling Heights Police Lt. Mario Bastianelli, the partnership’s goal is to keep students safe when they are entering and exiting bus stops.

“We’ve seen a growing trend of drivers not paying attention, going around a school bus as they’re stopping, distracted drivers, texting while driving,” he said.

Bastianelli said the Police Department’s traffic safety bureau wanted to enforce the law by doing something outside the box. So they decided to put police on a bus to watch how other vehicles interact with them — and to radio nearby police cars to pull over traffic law violators.

During the exercise, an officer occupied a bus on an afternoon route from Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights. Bastianelli said police picked the Stevenson route because it’s one where police previously have seen or heard about a high rate of violations.

“We will be doing this again at different locations at the end of the year here, and at the beginning of the school year next year,” he added.

Police said people from a wide range of ages and demographics fail to follow the proper laws for stopping when a school bus puts on its flashing yellow, then flashing red, lights to make a stop. When the red lights turn on, drivers behind the bus must stop at least 20 feet away  — they must not try to pass. Drivers on the other side of the road must not pass by the bus unless it is on a divided highway with a median.  

Drivers may only pass with caution once the flashing red lights turn off and the yellow hazard warning lights come on, Bastianelli said.

Superintendent Christine Johns said UCS has a continued strong partnership with local police. She said the schools have made community announcements imploring motorists to follow the rules of the road. But this year, the district is taking a more innovative approach by letting police witness situations from the buses’ point of view.

“As we are moving into a lot of road construction projects and we’re moving into nice weather, we are noticing that drivers appear to be anxious, and they’re approaching around school buses,” she said.

“We appreciate working collaboratively with the Sterling Heights Police Department. We share a common interest: We want to keep our kids safe.”

Learn more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.