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Can Drivers Legally Pass School Buses Stopped for Railroad Tracks?

Michigan State Trooper Sgt. Mark Thompson answers a question from a Brighton resident.

Veterans Day holds a special meaning for me even though I did not serve in the military. It has to do with family and friends; my dad and uncles served in World War II, two brothers served during Vietnam, another brother during Lebanon, a friend in Grenada and several of my fellow Troopers who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

On Wednesday, I got my hair cut, and as I was leaving the shop I made sure to tell Reggie (the barber) to have a “good Friday.” Reggie, who served in the Navy, smiled and said thanks. No Reggie, thank you and thank you to all who served and continue to serve our country and those who support them.   

Courtney Tobbe of Brighton asked: I am unclear about stopping, or not stopping when a bus stops at a railroad crossing. There seems to be a great deal of drivers that just pass the bus and cross the tracks. Is this the correct thing to do?

To answer the question we must read the law governing school bus drivers and their requirements regarding railroad crossings.

This is explained by MCL 257.1857 — "(1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), the driver of a school bus, before crossing a railroad track at grade, shall stop the vehicle within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail, activate hazard warning lights, turn off all interior switches including fans, heaters, and radios, open the passenger door and driver-side window, and while stopped shall listen and look in both directions along the track for an approaching train and for signals indicating the approach of a train, and shall not proceed until the driver can do so safely. After stopping as required in this subsection, and upon proceeding when it is safe to do so, the driver of the vehicle shall cross only in a gear of the vehicle that does not require changing gears while traversing the crossing. The driver shall not shift gears while crossing the track or tracks.

"(2) A stop need not be made at a railroad track grade crossing where a uniformed police officer or a traffic-control signal directs traffic to proceed.

"(3) A stop need not be made at an abandoned railroad track grade crossing. As used in this subsection, "abandoned railroad track" means a railroad track which meets both of the following requirements:

(a) The track has been completely paved over or removed.

(b) All signs, signals, and other warning devices are removed.

"(4) A stop shall not be made at a railroad track grade crossing on a freeway or limited access highway where the crossing is protected by a clearly visible signal, crossing gate, or barrier at a time when the signal, crossing gate, or barrier is not activated."

MCL 257.1857 requires school buses to stop at railroad tracks. It does not require other drivers to stop. If a driver wishes to pass a school bus, which is stopped at a railroad crossing, and the passing can be done legally, the driver can do so.

Paraphrasing a quote from President Ronald Regan, “Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but ‘veterans’ don't have that problem.”

If you have a questions or comments please email them to askatrooper12@gmail.com, or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4803 S. Old U.S. 23, Brighton, MI, 48114.

Janet November 12, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Wow. I don't think I've ever seen anybody pass anybody else on a railroad track, let alone a school bus. I thought passing on a railroad track was just one of those things nobody does, like changing lanes in the middle of an intersection. Shows what I know...
Darr247 November 12, 2011 at 11:30 PM
There are lots of crossings on streets with 4 lanes or more. Why should all lanes have to stop because the school bus is required to stop for the tracks? :-)

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