School Bus Safety
- School Buses are Unlike Other Vehicles
- Youngest Students at Risk
- Right of Way
- Share the Road
- For More Information
School buses have bigger blind spots, take longer to stop, and need more room to maneuver than a standard vehicle. Buses should be treated differently than you would treat an average-sized vehicle. It is important for drivers to know how to react to a school bus in operation.
When you encounter a school bus:
Slow down. School buses make frequent stops, so be patient and drive at a reasonable speed. Remember, in addition to picking up and dropping off students, school buses are required by law to stop at railroad crossings.
Be alert. Always be aware of children and parents that may be waiting at a school bus stop or perhaps running to catch the bus before it departs.
- Come to a complete stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.
Be extra careful to look around before moving your vehicle, as children may be walking in front of, behind, or on the side of school buses. Check for pedestrians - especially near schools, bus stops, playgrounds, parks, and behind parked cars.
The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) reports that in New York State, 2.3 million children are transported by more than 50,000 school buses annually.
Laws protect students who are getting on and off a school bus by making it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus while the school bus is stopped for the purpose of dropping off or picking up passengers and the red lights on the school bus are flashing, regardless of the direction of approach.
The NY State Education Department, Department of Pupil Transportation, states that the youngest students are most at risk.
Children ages 4 to 8 (grades K-3) are most susceptible to a school bus fatality. These children, though they represent less than 35% of the student population, were involved in 69% of the fatalities (79 out of 114). Factors that likely contribute to these statistics:
The smaller stature of younger children makes them more difficult for bus drivers and motorists to see.
These younger students are unable to see over or around objects such as parked cars or bushes.
When a school bus stops and flashes its red lights, traffic approaching from either direction must stop before reaching the bus:
- on a two-lane road
- on multi-lane highways
- on divided highways
Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Slow down and prepare to stop your vehicle.
Red flashing lights mean the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Stop your vehicle and wait until the school bus resumes motion or until signaled by the driver or police officer to proceed.
Fatalities Caused by Passing Motorists
Fatal crashes involving students who were struck by passing motorists typically involved one or more of the following factors:
- Motorists attempted to pass the bus, claiming they did not have time to wait.
- Motorists claimed they couldn’t see the flashing lights because the lights were dirty or because sun, rain, snow, or fog blinded them.
- The bus driver waved the car through the red flashing lights, unaware a child was crossing the road at that time. Even if the bus driver waves you ahead, you should still remain vigilant and keep to slower speeds.
- The motorist, demonstrating disregard for the law and/or children’s safety, did not stop for the flashing red lights.
Vehicle Operators - There are legal and financial consequences for vehicle operators who pass a school bus while the school bus is stopped for the purpose of dropping off or picking up passengers and red lights on the school bus are flashing.
- First conviction - fine of $250-$400 and/or up to 30 days in jail
- Second conviction within 3 years - fine of $600-$750 and/or up to 180 days in jail
- Third conviction (or more) within 3 years - fine of $750-$1000 and/or up to 180 days in jail
*Five points will be added to the operator's driving record for each conviction.
Vehicle Owners - A law was passed in 2019 that authorizes school districts and municipalities to use stop-arm cameras on school buses to impose penalties on the owners of vehicles which pass a school bus while the school bus is stopped for the purpose of dropping off or picking up passengers and red lights on the school bus are flashing.
- First violation - penalty of $250
- Second violation within 18 months - penalty of $275
- Third violation (or more) within 18 months - penalty of $300
If you would like more information on school bus safety and awareness, you can refer to the following:
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website
- New York State Driver’s Manual
- Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) website
- 1. You can see the full text of the law at OWNER LIABILITY FOR FAILURE OF OPERATOR TO STOP FOR A SCHOOL BUS DISPLAYING A RED VISUAL SIGNAL AND STOP-ARM (VTL 1174-A)