Needless to say, there is nothing more important than keeping our kids safe. This applies to numerous situations, but especially when they are on a school bus. However, because these buses travel slowly and make many stops, more and more drivers become impatient and ignore the various safety rules put in place to protect everyone from harm, or simply are unaware of what they can and cannot do when on the road with these buses. To find out the rules of the road regarding school buses, here are some of the most important points to keep in mind.
Since it’s estimated more than 50,000 motorists illegally pass school buses each year, it’s important to note that many of these illegal passes occur on non-divided highways. In virtually every state, you are required to stop for a school bus that is carrying children whether you are behind the bus or approaching it from the opposite direction. This is especially important when the bus is unloading children, since vehicles behind the bus often cannot see children crossing the road and may strike them if attempting to drive around the bus.
While you are required to stop for buses on non-divided highways, the rules are quite different for divided highways. With the exception of West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and New York, all other states do not require you to stop for a stopped school bus, even if the lights on the bus are flashing. This applies to all vehicles, so long as they are in the opposing traffic lanes.
Surprisingly, many drivers don’t realize school buses are required to stop at railroad crossings. Because of this, many accidents occur at these sites. Whether it is a child being hit if they are being let off the bus, or if the bus is rear-ended due to the driver behind the bus not expecting it to stop, numerous accidents occur. And in extreme cases where a driver has attempted to drive around a bus stopped at these crossings, they have been struck by a train, resulting in injuries to the vehicle’s driver, train passengers, and those on the school bus. Therefore, under no circumstances should you ever try to drive around a school bus when it is stopped at a railroad crossing, no matter the reason.
If you are on school property and a bus is loading or unloading children, you are usually required to stop. Since children are often going in various directions while on school property, drivers never know when a child may dart out in front of them.
Penalties for Drivers
While laws vary from state to state, in most cases where a driver is convicted of illegally driving around a school bus, they can be subject to a variety of penalties. These can include fines of up to $500, having their license suspended for 60 days or more, and having points added to their driving record, which may result in higher insurance rates.