As school returns and the summer schedule ends, everyone knows the roads become busier during the morning commute. What people sometimes forget this time of year is that school buses have their own “rules of the road.” The legal consequences of failing to abide can be severely damaging, both financially and professionally.
Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law requires that all motorists stop at least 10 feet behind a bus whose red hazard lights are flashing and whose octagonal “Stop” sign is extended. In cases where your car is already within 10 feet of the stopped bus, you may not advance any farther. Even if all the children have finished boarding, remain behind the bus until the red lights are deactivated. You must always stop where there is a painted line and must always wait until every child reaches a point of safety. In Commonwealth v. Russell, 2001 Pa. Super. 277, the Pennsylvania Superior Court even went so far as to hold that all cars on a four lane highway (without dividers), including oncoming traffic, are required by law to stop for a school bus stopped in oncoming traffic. This rule does not apply where the highway is divided by physical barriers, such as a grassy median or a concrete wall, so long as the car is on the other side of the barrier from the bus.
Even if the police do not “catch you” in the act of illegally passing a school bus, bus drivers are required to report any such cases, including identifying information, to the police within 48 hours, and we see lots of cases where they do that.
If you are convicted of passing a school bus there is an mandatory $250 fine and a 60-day suspension of your driving privileges. On top of that, five points are added to the driver’s license, which can seriously affect insurance costs down the road and result in a separate suspension if you commit any other offense while you still have those points.
For more information, look to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s School Bus Safety page here. Although National Bus Safety Week is not until October 20-24, 2015, everyone should pay careful attention to these rules every day.