Drivers who fail to stop for school buses face steeper fines

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Starting Tuesday, drivers who fail to stop for school buses when flashing lights and the crossing arm are activated will face a $500 fine.

State law requires all vehicles to stop for buses, yet the Minnesota State Patrol reported 703 stop arm violations in a single day this year. The violations were reported by 3,659 bus drivers throughout the state.

The new law increased the fine from $300.

The reinforced penalty, however, is only a small consolation for the Olson family of Otsego, Minn., because there’s no clear end in sight to the trauma they’ve endured since Jan. 19.

It was a cold Thursday morning when 15-year-old Beckett Olson and two of his fellow Rogers High School students, Greta Jenson and Ian Orina, were seriously injured by 23-year-old Cody Pech.

“Even though we may look okay and we may be physically fit, we don't really lose that feeling of being hurt,” Beckett said.

Pech, the driver of a pick-up truck, failed to stop for the students’ school bus even though its arm and lights were flashing. He struck them as they crossed the street, injuring all three students.

“All the sort of sadness and all the sort of pain is sort of worth it to be here right now to be with my family,” Beckett said.

By the teen’s wide smile, you’d never be able to tell that only seven months ago, Beckett barely clinged to life.

Although all three students suffered, Beckett’s circumstances have been especially challenging.

The resilient teen has had to deal with several broken bones, a lacerated kidney and traumatic brain injury. He’s undergone five surgeries. He went from walker to wheelchair, and while he is able to walk again, he's still considered in the early stages of his recovery.

“The way that he takes classes now will be a change. The way that he applies for college now will be changed, and the kind of parent that he’ll become will be changed,” Leslie Olson said.

The lifelong implication the crash has on the entire family is just a glimpse at why they welcome the fine hike against school bus stop violations.

Over the past six years Minnesota law enforcement wrote nearly 9,000 stop arm violations.

“If children are outside of the bus, it’s a gross misdemeanor violation. If the kids are still on the bus but somebody violates the stop arm, it’s a misdemeanor,” said Lt. Tiffani Nielson with Minnesota State Patrol.

But the Olsons will push for even stronger penalties, not only for Beckett, but for all the lives the crime threatens.

“These are our kids, your kids. It’s everyone’s kids that’s at stake here, and I can’t find a single justified reason why you’d do that,” Nate Olson, Beckett’s father said.

Beckett is determined to make a full recovery, return to class in the fall and even hopes to run track and field one day.

Doctors tell the family medical expenses could run them up to a million dollars.

Beckett’s Caring Bridge and GoFundMe pages detail the teen’s recovery process and how you can extend your support.

According to state patrol, drivers must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights or a stop arm when approaching from behind and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

Drivers should also slow down an anticipate children and buses, especially in neighborhoods and near schools.

Students should also make sure to look for cars when exiting the bus and wait for  the bus driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.