Nearly every day, I see reports on the news about vehicles passing a stopped school bus and children nearly injured or killed. Some are not so lucky. I also hear stories of those close calls from students in my defensive driving classes. It is always a hot topic. But when I ask them if they are crystal clear about what to do when a school bus is stopped with its red lights flashing and stop sign is out, some admit that they are not certain. So, I am going to tell you what to know about school bus safety and child safety.
The fine for passing a school is a hefty one. They have raised the price, hoping it will modify a driver’s behavior. Isn’t it sad to think that the price may motivate them not to do it, as if possibly hitting a child wouldn’t stop someone from passing a stopped bus that is loading or unloading children.
So, where has the system failed? Why isn’t everyone crystal clear about this? Surely, driver educators are teaching new drivers about this. It can’t be true that every student is just not paying attention in class. Or that they just don’t remember learning about it. That is disturbing not only to me, but to other parents of small children riding those buses. If those student drivers were given the cold, hard facts about the consequences (both financial and emotional), would that help them to be crystal clear?
The parents would be the ones responsible for paying their children’s fines, since those fines are not an amount that a child could pay. And, when the child’s insurance rates go up for a traffic violation, the parent’s rates increase. Why is raising the fine, rather than emphasizing the importance of knowing the law the measure that has been taken?
So, if you are unclear about what to do when you see a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing and stop sign is out, you may want to check with your state’s law. But here is the Texas law.
If the school bus is in your path of travel and preparing to stop, initially, the yellow warning lights will begin to flash. This would be the time to slow down behind the bus and prepare to stop behind the bus (at least 10 feet behind the bus). The lights will begin flashing red and the stop arm will come out. All lanes should stop. Not only the lane that the bus is in. That lane would have no choice, other than to stop, unless you’re Evil Kenevil and have a ramp in your trunk. Other lanes also must stop behind the bus, parallel with the car behind the bus. When the bus is finished loading or unloading children, the bus driver will shut off the flashing red lights and close the door on the bus. The stop arm will retract, but don’t start moving until the buses wheels start rolling. The bus driver will not move until he/she knows there are no children around the bus.
If you are on the opposite side of the road from where the bus is stopped, going the opposite direction, and there is a proper median separating each side, without a split or divide in the median, you do not have to stop for the bus. But, if there is a divided median, or only a painted line for separating opposing lanes, you must stop on your side. Again, every lane must stop.
Then, again, you should check with your state’s law if you are not perfectly clear. It will save you and save others in the end.
Until next week…
Daun Thompson
Writer / Comedienne / Artist
What To Know About School Buses – Comedy Defensive Driving