With schools kicking off the 2022-2023 school year in the days and weeks to come, it’s incredibly important to review school bus laws and safety tips in an effort to keep children and motorists as safe as possible.
What do the bus signals mean?
When a school bus has activated its yellow flashing lights, it is preparing to make a complete stop to either load or unload children. At this point in time, motorists should proactively be looking for children who might be near or approaching the road.
When a school bus has activated its red flashing lights and simultaneously extended its red stop sign, the bus has stopped to load or unload children. The bus driver will not signal for students to cross the roadway until conditions are safe and traffic cannot resume motion until the bus does so or until the bus driver signals traffic to do so.
Additionally, when a school bus approaches a railroad crossing, it will activate its four-way hazard lights and come to a complete stop to ensure it is safe to cross the railroad track. Four-way hazard lights will also be activated when a bus is turning around or backing up.
Please note, on roadways and at bus stops that may pose a potential hazard to students, bus stops are marked by signs. If you travel on such roadways, you are encouraged to take notice of such signs.
The bus is stopped. Do I need to, too?
If approaching a stopped bus on a road with fewer than four (4) lanes, all traffic must come to a complete stop regardless of the direction in which traffic is traveling.
If approaching a stopped bus on a roadway with four (4) or more lanes, only the traffic proceeding in the same direction as the bus must come to a stop.
As a friendly reminder, stopped traffic cannot resume motion until either the bus does or the bus driver signals traffic to do so.
What happens when I don’t follow the laws governing bus safety?
When a motorist fails to comply with the laws governing school bus safety, bus drivers will report the vehicle’s license plate information to law enforcement. Failure to comply may include a fine of up to $500 and a maximum one-year suspension of one’s driver’s license.
What can I do as a parent to keep my children safe?
While motorists may be inclined to assume all students have been informed of and are prepared to follow school bus safety guidelines, know that children as young as kindergarten may be riding the bus and may not yet be familiar with all the rules.
Here are a few tips for parent to keep their children as safe as possible:
- Teach children of the “danger zone” of buses–the 10 feet in front of, behind, and on sides of the bus where visibility of the bus driver is limited;
- Dress children in light colors on dark mornings so they may be visible to other motorists;
- Remove keychains and other hanging objects from backpacks as they can pose a potential hazard;
- Instruct children not to pick up an object they may have dropped near the bus as the driver may not have seen them stop to pick up the object;
- Remind children that some motorists, even though they should, do not always stop for buses and encourage them to look both ways before crossing roadways; and
- Always have an adult supervising students at bus stops.
Parents are encouraged to review the guidelines with students at the beginning of every school year.