During back-to-school time, there's one additional challenge drivers need to look out for: school buses. These large yellow vehicles are impossible to miss. But the children entering and exiting the bus? Not so much.
Texas has a real problem with this. In 2021, the Lone Star State had the most school bus–related deaths (12, in total) in the entire country. That may be why Texas has some of the strictest laws about passing school buses. It's illegal, and the punishment is harsh.
Here's what you need to know to protect those around you — and stay out of trouble.
Why It's Dangerous to Pass a School Bus
School buses stop to pick up and drop off children. Because most kids are short, they're hard to see behind the big yellow bus, parked cars, and vehicles driving on the other lanes. Reduced visibility is the villain here.
For example, a driver heading toward the bus might decide no children are crossing the road simply because they don't see them. Or a driver stopped behind the school bus could pull into the left lane to pass, not seeing there are children crossing the road up ahead.
Both scenarios end in disaster. So why do drivers still take the risk? In short, because they're in a hurry. No one likes stop-and-go traffic, but some drivers compromise safety just to get where they're going quicker.
These aren't just abstract scenarios — they actually happen. In 2022, there were 2,305 crashes involving a Texas school bus. Seven people were killed, and 51 were seriously injured.
Learn the Law in Texas
The state of Texas has a law — Transportation Code Section 545.066 — to keep this from happening.
The law says drivers must come to a full stop when a school bus has its lights on or stop sign extended. They can only resume driving once:
The bus starts moving.
The visual signals are turned off.
The school bus driver manually signals the driver to proceed.
Remember, all drivers on an undivided road must follow the law. It doesn't matter what direction you're driving or how many lanes are between you and the school bus — you still need to stop!
The rules are slightly different on a divided highway. If you're traveling on a separate roadway (across the divide), you don't need to stop.
What Happens if I Pass a School Bus in Texas?
Passing a school bus in Texas is a misdemeanor. Drivers have to pay hefty fines:
First offense: Anywhere from $500 to $1,250.
Second (and subsequent) offenses: Between $1,000 and $2,000.
And the worst part? Drivers can't fight the ticket they get for passing a school bus.
The court can also suspend the license of any driver caught passing a school bus more than once. What's more, drivers who cause bodily injury to others are charged with a class A misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail.
How to Share the Road with School Buses
The next time you see a school bus, stay alert. Always follow safety precautions around school buses:
Be prepared to stop.
Watch out for children.
Don't lose your patience.
Don't get distracted by your phone.
Keep Other Texas Road Users Safe with Defensive Driving
It's your job as a responsible driver to keep other drivers and pedestrians safe — especially in school zones. But that's not always easy. Defensive driving is a huge help in these instances. In our online classes, you'll learn tips to avoid and handle all kinds of dangers on the road. And the best part? You could even get an insurance discount for completing the course.