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Back to School Bus Safety

Summer break is coming to an end for many students in New York, and soon enough, they will be returning to school for in-person learning. As such, you will see an increased number of school buses around the Empire State. 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. That said, you must be aware that school buses demand a different level of precautions and attention.

These large and heavy vehicles that take our young ones from Point A to Point B are actually a safer alternative than driving in cars, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. This is because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road.

However, other drivers are responsible for following certain traffic rules around school buses. After all, school buses carry precious cargo ― our nearest and dearest. For these reasons and more, drivers have a duty to drive safely around school buses, adhering to certain stops and signals to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers alike.

When to Stop for a School Bus

School bus rules and regulations exist for a reason. School bus drivers have different signals and stops than others with whom they share the roads, therefore, motor vehicle drivers must ensure they operate their vehicles accordingly. To give you a better idea of how

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

Red flashing lights mean the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. When driving around a school bus with red flashing lights, stop your vehicle and wait until the school bus resumes motion or until signaled by the driver or police officer to proceed. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. As such, slow down and prepare to stop your vehicle.

I Accidentally Passed a Stopped School Bus. Now What?

You can get a ticket for passing a school bus in New York. Drivers who pass a school bus that is stopped for the purpose of picking up or dropping off passengers and has red flashing lights can face the following consequences:

  • 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

If you’re wondering how many points you’ll get for passing a stopped school bus, the answer is 5 points for each conviction. Be mindful that after accumulating 11 points, your driver’s license will get suspended in New York. Thus, passing a stopped school bus warrants a significant amount of driving points on your record.

What you should also keep in mind is that school districts and municipalities are authorized to use stop-arm cameras on school buses to penalize drivers who break the law. As such, drivers who pass a stopped school bus with red flashing lights could face the following penalties:

  • First violation - $250 fine
  • Second violation within 18 months - $275 fine
  • Third violation (or more) within 18 months - $300 fine

School Bus Tips for Drivers

School buses have bigger blind spots, take longer to stop, and need more room to maneuver than a standard vehicle. That’s why you should treat buses differently than your average vehicle and react properly appropriately to their signals and maneuvers. If you don’t, the outcome could be fatal.

According to the NHTSA, 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.

With these alarming statistics in mind, it comes as no surprise that the state imposes harsh penalties for drivers who violate school bus traffic rules. To best avoid getting into an accident involving a school bus and/or a child, consider the tips below:

  • Slow down, as school buses make frequent stops. Be patient and drive at a reasonable speed.
  • Be alert of children and parents who may be waiting at a school bus stop or running to catch the bus before it departs.
  • Fully stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.
  • 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 also, especially near schools, bus stops, playgrounds, parks, and behind parked cars.

People are in a hurry. School buses operate differently than motor vehicles. Drivers tend to forget the rules for driving around school buses. It happens. However, if you got a traffic ticket, you should fight it with the help of an experienced lawyer who served as a former traffic court judge, such as our very own attorney here at Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C. We are here to help you understand your rights and legal options and will fight tirelessly to minimize the consequences of your ticket.

Contact us at (212) 235-1525 to learn more!

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