The tragic statistics and media headlines should be enough to deter motorists from running school bus stop signs. In fact, the numbers are staggering – in a single day, more than 76,000 vehicles illegally passed school buses that had their stop sign extended outward (i). It is important to remember throughout the school year and otherwise that motorists must obey the school bus stop laws in order to keep children safe. Well-trained school bus drivers and motorists alike should commit to sharing the road safely so that everyone on the thoroughfares can get to their destination safe and sound.
School Bus Safety by the Numbers:
- School buses carry approximately 24 million students annually
- In the aggregate, school buses travel more than 4 billion miles each year
- Considering the number of passengers, and distance traveled, fatalities are low
- For every 100 million miles traveled by school bus, there is a 0.2 death rate
- For comparison’s sake, the rate of death in regular vehicles is 8x higher
- Most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related crashes are 4-7 years old, killed as pedestrians, after being hit by the bus or by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus
Relatively speaking, school buses are safer than other passenger vehicles, and are certainly the safest means of transportation for children to commute to and from school. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), an estimated 24 children each year are killed in school bus accidents – very few of the fatalities however actually occur on the bus. A third of the fatalities occur when a child is struck by a school bus in the loading/unloading zone, another third are struck by motor vehicle operators who fail to stop for the school bus, and the final third are pedestrians who are killed as they either come or go from the school bus stop (ii).
Because school buses transport our most precious cargo, they are held to the most stringent safety standards of any vehicle on the road, requiring: special passenger crash protection, optimal braking systems, warning lights, special mirrors, swing-out stop arms, emergency exits, as well as rollover and fuel system protections. These features are put in place to protect young passengers, but the true safety of these children depends on other motorists respecting school buses on the roadways.
To promote school bus safety, state and federal legislatures have been taking action to punish other motorists who may be endangering youth passengers. States have been cracking down on drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses. To increase compliance with the bus’s stop arm, most states are imposing hefty fines and assessing points on licenses for violators. New Rhode Island legislation permits enforcement of certain traffic violations based on evidence obtained from a school bus safety video monitoring system. Violators may face a civil fine between $250 and $500, and/or suspension of their driver’s license for periods of up to a month.
Laws for Sharing the Road with School Buses
Every state has a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that his stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading children. School buses are equipped with yellow flashing lights to indicate to motorists they are they preparing to stop to load/unload passengers. The red flashing lights and stop sign arm are to alert motorists that the bus is stopped and students may be getting on or off of the bus. Virtually every states requires that traffic in both directions stop on undivided roadways when children are entering or exiting a school bus; state laws do vary to some extent on what a divided roadway is, but in all cases, the car immediately behind the bus is required to stop. The 10 feet immediately surrounding a school bus is where children are most likely to be hit – that being said, motorists should take care to stop far enough away from the bus so that children have the space to enter and exit safely from the bus. Motorists should also refrain from passing school buses on the right; doing so could have grim consequences.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a school bus accident, you should contact an experienced school bus accident attorney, who can advise you of your rights. You may be entitled to compensation, which could enable you to get back on your feet. Our bus accident attorneys have experience in settling these cases and charge no fee unless you receive a settlement or award. Reach out to us at our toll free number or filling out an online contact form on our website for your free, no obligation case evaluation.
- (i) School Bus Fleet. July 2011.
- (ii) National Conference of State Legislatures Transportation Review. July 2012.