sharing the road with school buses
As you know, driving around school buses requires experience, understanding, and a healthy dose of patience. While evidence suggests that school buses are one of the safest modes of transportation for children, accidents can and do happen.
Here we'll break down what you need to know when driving around school buses and why bus-related moving violations incur serious penalties.
Driving around school buses
If you see a school bus in your lane or coming towards you, pay close attention to what it's doing. Give the bus extra space and be prepared to stop suddenly as it loads or unloads its cargo (kids).
Because they're walking on or near the road, kids are in some danger when they get on or off buses. It's up to the cars around them to keep a close watch and make sure the coast is clear before continuing on.
With that in mind, here are some cardinal rules to follow:
- Never pass a school bus on the right side. That's where the kids get out.
- School buses are required to stop at railroad crossings, so be ready to hit the brakes if you're behind one.
- School buses travel at slower speeds. Expect to slow down and only pass when the bus driver signals you to go by.
- Pay attention to any stop signs or signals on the bus.
Safety around stopped school buses
Because school buses are so big, your visibility around them is limited. According to the NHTSA, from 2000 to 2009, 27 percent of school-age pedestrians that died in school transportation-related crashes were struck by another vehicle on the road (PDF). In order to protect children, states have enacted stopping laws. These laws dictate when you must stop your vehicle for a school bus as well as the severity of penalties you face for any violation. The rule of thumb: the second you see the bus lights flashing and the stop sign pop out, be ready to stop.
Penalties for school bus-related violations
Penalties for violating school bus stopping laws vary from state to state, but all states take these violations seriously.
In New York, the first time you fail to stop, you may face a fine between $250 and $400, up to 30 days in jail, and 5 additional points on your driving record (by comparison, running a stop sign nets you 3 points). And the penalty becomes harsher for every subsequent violation.
If you're convicted of violating Pennsylvania's stopping-for-buses law, you could lose your license for 60 days, get 5 points on your driving record, and be fined $250.
When should you stop?
In every state, it's illegal to pass a school bus that's loading or unloading students. Always stop when the bus is in the process of unloading students on:
- Public highways
- Multilane roads
- Parking lots
- School property
Another thing to consider: school buses occasionally travel in caravans. If a school bus in front of you has another bus in front of it that's letting kids on or off, you must stop for that bus as well.
State laws regarding stopping for school buses on divided highways vary. Check with your state's rules of the road for more information. (Helpful hint: if you're googling, type in site:*.gov, your state, and DMV. For example, site:*.gov New Jersey DMV.)
Give the bus a brake
Driving a school bus isn't an easy job, so it's up to us fellow drivers on the road to help bus drivers any way we can. By learning to share the road with buses and following your state's stopping laws, you can make a bus driver's job a bit easier. You'll protect the kids and help keep your driving record nice and clean in the process.
Sharing the road with bikes
Navigating a bike-filled road can be just as scary as one filled with school buses. We'll give you the inside track on sharing the road with bikes.