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School Bus Safety Rules for Drivers

school bus
School Bus Safety Rules for Drivers

Back-to-School Safety 101: Driving Safely Around Buses

Schools across the country are opening back up, and after over one year of virtual learning, it wouldn’t be surprising if students and parents forgot how to drive around school buses and in school zones. Driving around school buses is unlike driving around other vehicles on the road, as these big yellow vehicles operate by different regulations.

Although back to school may look a little bit different this year, the bottom line is that safety comes first. You will see more school buses and children on or around the roads this year as compared to last year, so it’s important to be mindful of key regulations for school buses and school zones to avoid getting a ticket, or worse, hurting or killing someone.

To give you a perspective, school bus-related crashes killed 109 people nationwide in 2019, according to National Safety Council (NSC) tabulations of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NSC also reports that from 2010 to 2019, about 69% of the deaths in school bus-related crashes were occupants of vehicles other than the school bus, 17% were pedestrians, about 6% were school bus passengers, 5% were school bus drivers, and 3% were bicyclists. Of the people injured in school bus-related crashes from 2010 to 2019, about 34% were school bus passengers, 8% were school bus drivers, and 53% were occupants of other vehicles. The remainder were pedestrians, bicyclists, and other or unknown.

For these reasons, we share some rules for driving around school buses as well as safety tips for parents and students to keep in mind for this school year.

What Are the Rules for Stopping for a School Bus?

You must stop when the school bus flashes red lights, or else you may get a ticket. Red flashing lights on a school bus mean stop, therefore, drivers should wait at least 20 feet behind the bus until the red lights stop flashing. Once the bus begins driving, then you can start driving. Many school buses contain extended stop-arms, which also indicate drivers to stop for crossing children.

Keep in mind that you do not need to stop if the school bus is on the other side of a highway that contains two or more lanes in each direction. If that is the case, the rules above do not apply.

Yellow flashing lights on a school bus mean slow down and prepare to stop. As such, drivers should do just that.

Ticket for Passing a School Bus

The consequences for passing a stopped school bus in California are a $1,000 fine and/or 1-year license suspension. Without a license, you will have issues getting to work, school, appointments, errands, and more. Having your driving privileges is necessary for your day-to-day life, so without a license, you could suffer the loss of employment, failing grades, issues with childcare, and much more.

Keep in mind that if you passed a stopped school bus with red flashing lights and caused injuries or death as a result, you could be charged with reckless endangerment, vehicular manslaughter, and other criminal charges.

Reckless driving in California is a crime punishable by 5 to 90 days in county jail and/or a $145 to $1,000 fine. On the other hand, vehicular manslaughter occurs when a driver operates their vehicle with or without gross negligence in the commission of a misdemeanor offense. Depending on the circumstances, a person can spend up to 1 year in the county jail or spend 2 to 6 years in state prison.

For instance, a person may get penalized with 2 to 6 years in state prison if they were driving under the influence, passed a stopped school bus with the stop-arm employed, and killed a child as a result. In contrast, a person may get penalized with one year in county jail if they were texting and driving, passed a stopped school bus as a result, and killed a child thereafter. These are only examples of potential consequences for passing a stopped school bus in California. Ultimately, your penalties vary on the nature and impacts of the alleged offense, prior convictions, and other factors.

How Many Points Will I Get for Passing a Stopped School Bus?

In most instances, you will get 1 driving point added to your record if you pass a stopped school bus in California. Remember that if you accumulate a certain amount of driving points in a certain period of time, your driver’s license could get suspended or revoked in California. If you accumulate the following points in the particular time period, the DMV will penalize you with 1-year probation that includes a 6-month license suspension:

  • 4 points in 12 months
  • 6 points in 24 months
  • 8 points in 36 months

Rules for Driving in School Zones

In California, when you are driving within 500 to 1,000 feet of a school while children are outside or crossing the street, the speed limit is 25 mph unless otherwise posted. Also, if the school grounds have no fence and children are outside, you should never drive faster than 25 mph. Be mindful that some school zones may have speed limits as low as 15 mph, so keep an eye out for the posted speed limits in school zones at all times. If you don’t see a posted speed limit, drive no more than 25 mph.

If you get a ticket for speeding in a school zone, you could get punished with fines, 1 point on your driving record, and more. To avoid these consequences, be sure to drive slowly and cautiously in school zones.

School Safety Tips for Parents to Consider

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advises parents to consider the following back-to-school safety tips to ensure their child gets to school safely. Doing so could save lives.

At the Bus Stop

The NHTSA advises parents to get their child to the bus stop at least minutes before it is scheduled to arrive. Parents are encouraged to show their child where to wait for the bus, which should be at least 6 feet away (“3 giant steps”) away from the curb. Remind your child that they should not run or play around the school bus stop.

Getting On and Off the Bus

Before approaching the bus door, tell your child to wait until the bus comes to a full and complete stop, the doors open, and the bus driver says it’s okay. Advise them to use the handrails while getting on the bus to avoid falling.

Around the Bus

When crossing in front of the school bus, your child should be at least 10 feet (“5 giant steps”) in front of the bus and make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing. Tell your child to never walk behind a school bus and that if they need to retrieve an item, such as a ball or book, your child should tell the school bus driver first. Grabbing such items themselves could put your child in serious danger because the driver may not see them.

Successfully Fighting Traffic Tickets for 10+ Years

Traffic tickets are a nuisance at best but can have a debilitating impact on your freedom and future at worst. When it comes to school buses and school zones, it is particularly important to follow the traffic rules and stay alert for pedestrians and other drivers at all times. These instances call for extra caution, so if you got a ticket for a school bus or school zone traffic violation, get proven legal help right away.

Speak to us about your situation and learn how we can fight your ticket. To get started, contact us online or at (510) 907-6600!