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Understanding the Importance of Staying Safe Around School Buses

School bus

By William J. Price

As parents and commuters, it’s essential to know how to safely navigate around school buses during their stops to pick up or drop off children. School buses are responsible for the safe transportation of young students, and understanding their signaling systems is crucial to ensuring the safety of everyone on the road. 

Yellow Flashing Lights: A Warning to Slow Down

As a school bus approaches a stop, you’ll notice its yellow flashing lights at the top and middle sections of the front, rear, and sides of the bus. These yellow lights serve as a warning that the bus is slowing down to make a stop. When you see these lights, it’s imperative that you also slow down and prepare to stop. It’s crucial to remember that the presence of yellow flashing lights does not give you permission to overtake the bus from behind or accelerate in the opposite direction. Instead, these lights signal to exercise caution, as children may be nearby.

Red Flashing Lights and the “Stop Sign”

Once the school bus comes to a complete stop, its red lights will automatically start flashing. To enhance safety during stops, many buses are equipped with a “stop sign” that extends from the driver’s side. When you see these red lights flashing and the “stop sign” extended, you must legally bring your vehicle to a complete stop. It’s essential to adhere to this rule even if the “stop sign” is not extended, as the safety of the children boarding or leaving the bus takes precedence.

Understanding the Rules on Different Road Types

The rules around school bus stops vary depending on the type of road you’re on. On a two-lane road, where one lane travels in the opposite direction of the other, all vehicles in both directions must stop when the school bus’s red lights are flashing. This ensures the safe passage of children crossing the street.

However, on roads with four lanes—two lanes in each direction—traffic moving in the same direction as the bus is required to stop when the red lights are flashing. While this is a legal requirement, it’s essential to remain vigilant for any children near the bus, as they might be crossing the street.

The Consequences of Ignoring School Bus Signals

It’s important to treat school bus signals with the utmost seriousness. Ignoring these signals not only endangers the lives of young students but can also lead to substantial fines. In many jurisdictions, fines for disregarding school bus flashing lights start at a minimum of $500 and can increase depending on the circumstances. By adhering to these rules, you’re avoiding penalties and actively contributing to the safety and well-being of children in your community.

When you encounter a school bus with yellow or red flashing lights, remember to slow down, stop as required, and always prioritize the safety of those around you. Understanding and following these rules can create a safer environment and promote responsible driving within our communities.