Safely Sharing the Road with School Buses
Did you know that school buses are far safer than the other vehicles on the road? The government sets all kinds of regulations about what kind of vehicle can be used to transport school students, how that vehicle is built, how many people can ride on the bus, and where they should be sitting. And it is a good thing these regulations are set - the result is that there are relatively few student fatalities each year.
However, collisions involving school buses and students still occur, and sometimes those crashes have ended in death. Most of those killed weren’t the ones on the bus – they were walking, riding in other vehicles, or on bicycles.
As a driver, you can do a lot to contribute to the safety of others. How can you safely share the road with school buses? Here are three useful tips.
1. Understand the lights
When a school bus stops and begins to flash its lights that means it is time for you to take action!
- Yellow flashing lights – drivers should slow down in order to stop their vehicle in time.
- Red flashing lights – this warns you that the bus has stopped and that children are either getting onto the bus or getting off or that they are preparing to do so.
2. Know how to react
When the bus has red flashing lights, you must:
- Stop if traveling behind the bus.
- Stop if your vehicle is alongside a bus.
- Stop if you approach an intersection where a school bus has flashing lights.
- Keep your distance. Although children are instructed to never walk behind a school bus, drivers should be cautious about how close they stop to the bus. Many states have strict regulations on how far you must stop from a bus that has flashing red lights and the stop arm extended. Drivers must also wait until the children are in a safe location, either on the bus or on the side of the road. Do not move until the bus driver has turned off the flashing lights, the extended stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus has started moving.
It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children.
Are there times when you do not need to stop? If the school bus is on the other side of the road and between you and the school bus there is a physical barrier such as trees, shrubs, median barriers, or guide rails, you may not need to stop – check the laws in your state.
3. Keep alert and take it seriously
Every year, thousands of drivers get tickets for illegally passing school buses. In addition to having put children at risk, such drivers may receive fines amounting to hundreds of dollars, get points on their driving record, and get their license suspended.