When Should You Stop For a School Bus?
The short answer: Whenever it's stopped. But learn your state laws on the details
Kids often start a new school year by reviewing what they learned in previous years. Along those lines, it wouldn’t hurt if motorists boned up on school bus safety. According to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Information Services, cars and other vehicles drive — sometimes fly — past stopped school buses more than 70,000 times a day.
You can see just how potentially tragic passing a school bus could be in this video from April 2015, when a speeding SUV missed plowing into three small kids by mere inches as they walked toward a waiting school bus.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 119 pedestrians under age 19 were killed in school transportation-related accidents between 2003 and 2013. Thirty percent of them were struck by other vehicles.
If you’re often behind the wheel at the same time school buses are making the rounds — typically between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 3 p.m and 4 p.m. — it’s vital to know how to share the road safely.
Learn the rules of the road
Laws regarding school buses and student transportation vary from state to state. Most state and local governments take cues from the NHTSA, however, so there’s a fair amount of consistency. For example, the NHTSA guidelines recommend school buses be painted that familiar yellow-orange — “National School Bus Glossy Yellow” — and have other uniform features so that drivers from everywhere will recognize a school bus for what it is.
Here’s another thing drivers can count on no matter where they are: Passing a school bus that is stopped and has its lights flashing is illegal in all 50 states. A motorist who does this is likely to be in some pretty serious trouble. In New Jersey, for example, a driver who passes a stopped school bus can wind up with as many as five points on his driver’s license, five points on his car insurance policy, a fine of at least $100 and maybe even jail time.
But when it comes to specifics like how far away from a school bus you need to stop or if you need to stop when approaching a school bus if there's a median between your car and the bus, the rules vary. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services sums up the differences between states here. But because laws are always subject to change, the organization advises checking with your state Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure you know the rules about stopping for a school bus.
Related: What to Do If Your Brakes Fail