Every day, millions of students across America board school buses to safely arrive at school and receive an education. Along the way, buses stop frequently to pick up more students, and eventually drop the kids off at school. Then they do it all over again in the opposite order in the afternoon. While school buses are lauded as being one of the overall safest vehicles on the road, students are more at risk when being let off the bus or waiting at stops than when physically riding the bus. One of the most common issues that bus drivers, students, and parents alike encounter is cars that do not fully stop for stopped school buses with flashing red lights. Continue on to learn more about this important issue and the way it affects school transportation nationwide.
Bus drivers and school transportation directors understand what the school bus flashing lights each mean, and it’s other drivers on the road’s responsibility to know what these important signals mean as well. Yellow flashing lights indicate that a bus is slowing down to stop and that the vehicles behind them need to begin to slow to stop as well. Red flashing lights indicate that a bus is stopped to either load or unload children. Once the stop-arm extends, it is illegal to pass the bus on either the same side of the road as the bus or even the opposite side of the road. Specific stop-arm laws vary state by state, but a legal requirement to stop when the stop-arm is extended is nationwide. Cars may only proceed with driving once the stop-arm is withdrawn and back in place against the bus.
Many drivers are not aware that they need to stop on the opposite side of the road as well, but it is important to know and follow this part of stop-arm law as well. Not every bus stop is located on the same side of the road where children live, and some kids need to cross the road to get home. Many school buses stay parked and stop the flow of traffic to allow students to safely cross, especially on busier roads. The only time drivers on the opposite side of the road do not need to stop is when there is a concrete meridian structure in the center of the road, fully dividing the opposing traffic lanes.
Because laws vary state by state, there are different fines and penalties associated with not stopping for school buses, depending on the area. Some states have actually implemented video cameras on the school bus stop arm signs, allowing them to easily go after drivers who have violated these important student safety laws. While cameras have not been implemented everywhere, legal fines and penalties for not stopping for school buses exist in each state. In most states, the first offense is a fine, and the second is a misdemeanor. Many states also impose license points or even a full license suspension for violators of this important safety law.
Unfortunately, some people notice that they have passed a stopped school bus only after they have done so. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to stay entirely focused on the road, especially if you are driving in close proximity to a school bus. As always, stay alert and defensive and keep your eyes on the road. When you see a stopped bus with flashing red lights, stay stopped until the arm is withdrawn and keep an eye on your surroundings, watching for children. Not stopping can have a lot of consequences, even if it is an accident. The children of America depend on local drivers to stop and keep them safe, and being part of the solution to this ongoing issue is vital!
Bus drivers: How often do you encounter drivers who do not stop when you have your stop-arm extended? What do you do in these circumstances? Feel free to drop a comment or reach out to chat further about this important issue!