Of all the driver safety guidelines detailed in state driving handbooks, school bus safety may quite possibly be the most important rule that gets constantly overlooked.
School buses are protected incredibly well under U.S. traffic law, and for good reason: we trust these vehicles to transport our kids safely to and from schools. Without proper laws and standards in place to protect school buses, we would be putting children in immense potential harm.
This is especially true during the boarding and offboarding of passengers at bus stops, where the most important school bus safety rule is enforced.
Stop Means Stop!
If a school bus is at a full stop with stop signs out and lights blaring, it means to STOP! This is the most crucial point in school bus safety, as kids are exiting and entering the bus, and they may not be aware of other vehicles on the road. When even adults have issues with looking both ways before crossing the street, it’s no surprise that children have problems remembering that as well.
The laws around school bus stops are generally the same throughout the nation. If you’re on the same side of the road as the bus in a residential or non-highway area, there are no exceptions – you MUST stop if the bus stops, and resume moving when the bus deems it appropriate.
For most states, this also extends into the opposite side of the road as well, especially if it’s a small two-lane road. In Florida, for example, the school bus stop laws are as follows:
These aren’t guidelines either – if you’re caught breaking this law, you’re in for a world of hurt.
The Consequences of Not Following School Bus Safety
Passing a stopped school bus comes with steep fines and penalties, no matter in what part of the country you reside. This includes:
Points added to your record, and typically not an insignificant amount: Ex: North Carolina issues 5 points for this violation. By comparison, reckless driving and driving on the wrong side of the road each earn you 4 points
A hefty fine for your troubles: Ex: $500 in North Carolina, $250 in Pennsylvania, and $165-$265 in Florida, depending on which side you pass the bus
Potential license suspension: Ex: Mandatory 60-day suspension in PA for the first offense; up to two year’s suspension in FL for the second (and subsequent) offenses, depending on which side you pass the bus
A large increase in insurance premiums
And things get much, much worse if anyone is injured or killed as a result of your actions.
So, please take time to familiarize yourself with your state’s school bus stop laws. And if you’re ever in doubt, STOP. Feeling unsure of the driving laws in your state? Take a defensive driving course to ensure you’re always up-to-date on traffic laws.