School Bus Safety, What Wisconsin Swing Voters Could Mean In November’s Election

Air Date:
Heard On The Morning Show
Photo: loop_oh (CC-BY-ND)

If the idea of lots of small children packed into a bus without seatbelts makes you nervous, you’re not alone. We talk to a Wisconsin State Patrol lieutenant about school bus enforcement and safety. We also discuss how big of an impact Wisconsin’s swing voter population could have on November’s general election.

Featured in this Show

  • State Official Serves Up Reminder Of Wisconsin School Bus Laws

    School buses aren’t hard to miss. They’re the same yellow color in every state, they’re identified as school buses and are equipped with stop arms, crossing gates and strobe lights.

    And although the law is clear that drivers must stop behind or in front of school buses with flashing red lights, there are still plenty of instances of drivers skirting those laws, said Lt. Karl Mittelstadt from the Wisconsin State Patrol’s Motor Carrier Enforcement Unit.

    “It can be for all different things,” he said. “Maybe they’re in a hurry, maybe that they’re distracted texting on a cellphone or changing the radio station. It all depends on the situation or scenario. But yes, it definitely happens.”

    With the school year underway, Mittelstadt reminds drivers to stop no less than 20 feet from a bus that is flashing red lights and stay stopped until the red lights are turned off. The law doesn’t apply to those in vehicles heading in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

    Passing a school bus illegally can net convicted drivers a fine of $326.50 and four points off their drivers’ license, Mittelstadt said.

    Since Aug. 2016, the state has made sharing the road with school buses a bit easier by requiring all buses manufactured after 2004 to be equipped with amber lights that warn drivers the bus is about to stop. While it is legal to pass a bus whose amber lights are flashing, it’s not recommended.

    “Similar to a traffic signal, amber doesn’t mean speed up and go through the intersection,” he said. “The amber light on a signal means slow down, use caution.”

    To ensure bus safety on the road, about 11,000 annual school bus inspections are done per year by the State Patrol.

    “Each school bus that operates on our roads is touched by an inspector at least annually,” Mittelstadt said.

    These inspections focus on braking systems, steering and suspension, seating, emergency equipment, among other components. If a defect is found, the bus is taken out of service until the defect is corrected.

    Additionally, Mittelstadt said school bus drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license and have to be medically certified to drive buses. Drivers are also subjected to random drug testing throughout the year.

    While every state has its own standards for school buses, Mittelstadt said they’re built with steel tops, bottoms and sides and have reinforced panels riveted together. On the exterior, buses have rub rails that act like guardrails to further protect buses and their cargo.

    “They’re truly built like a tank,” he said.

    They’re also built with the idea of keeping children protected in the seat.

    “Compartmentalization is a design concept using tall seat backs padded with energy-absorbing construction covering all metal parts and spacing that is closer than what you would typically find in a passenger vehicle,” he said. “Those seats do protect the child in a crash situation”

  • Checking In On School Bus Safety In Wisconsin

    With the school year in full swing, it’s time for an update about what Wisconsin law says about school buses. Join us as we check in with a guest from the Wisconsin State Patrol about school bus safety.

  • How Big Of An Impact Will Wisconsin Swing Voters Have In The Midterms?

    About 30 percent of the Wisconsin electorate is made up of “soft partisans” — people who are independents on paper, but actually tend to sway a bit left or right. Recent polling finds that these voters could have a big impact on the upcoming midterms. We take a look at swing voters in Wisconsin and their political influence.

Episode Credits

  • Carrie Kaufman Host
  • John Munson Host
  • Breann Schossow Producer
  • Colleen Leahy Producer
  • Sarah Hopefl Technical Director
  • Karl Mittelstadt Guest
  • Craig Gilbert Guest