According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a school bus is actually the safest vehicle on the road. It is much safer for your child to take a bus to and from school than when they travel by car. They are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when they take a school bus as opposed being transported by a passenger vehicle. School buses are the most regulated vehicle on the road. There are laws in place that other drivers must follow when traveling near a school bus. If you jeopardize the safety of the passengers on the bus by breaking the law, you can receive a traffic ticket.
All school buses are equipped with two types of light – flashing yellow lights and flashing red lights. Learn and obey the laws and the flashing signal system that the school bus uses to alert drivers of what the bus is planning to do.
- Flashing Yellow Lights: If you come upon a school bus with flashing yellow lights, it indicates the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Slow down and prepare to stop if you see the flashing yellow lights.
- Flashing Red Lights: When you see flashing red lights on a school bus, you are required to come to a complete stop. This means the bus has stopped and children are entering or exiting the bus. You must stop whether you are behind the school bus or approaching it from the opposite direction. Children that have exited the bus may be crossing the street. The only exception is if you are driving on a divided highway or multi-lane highway (any highway that has two or more lanes of travel in each direction). You do not need to stop in these situations.
Some other things to take into consideration and be aware of when you are traveling near school buses include the following:
- PRACTICE PATIENCE – School buses are large vehicles. They are designed to be large and heavy in order to keep the occupants safe and provide maximum protection. School buses make frequent stops when traveling on pre-determined routes, and their main purpose is to pick up and drop off children. In order to keep them as safe as possible, exercise patience when you drive near a school bus. There is no need to speed around a school bus.
- PRACTICE DEFENSIVE DRIVING – Drivers should be cautious when traveling near a school bus. Avoid overly aggressive driving, speeding, or any other unsafe maneuvers. Doing so can put yourself, other drivers, and young children at risk of being injured or killed.
- MAINTAIN A SAFE FOLLOWING DISTANCE – Leave a distance of at least three car lengths between your vehicle and a school bus. If you are traveling on a highway, leave extra room and increase your following distance.
- WATCH FOR CHILDREN – Just because the lights are no longer flashing or the stop sign arm is no longer extended does not mean no children are present. Anytime you drive near a bus, drive slowly as if there were children present. Look straight ahead, to the sides, and behind you when driving. Children can be unpredictable and may dart out into the street without notice.
School buses are important parts of society, so driving cautiously and defensively near them is necessary at all times. As long as you follow these simple traffic laws, you can keep yourself, other drivers, and pedestrians safe, and you can also avoid receiving a traffic citation.