Area children are heading back to school already. After a long Summer without bus traffic on our morning commutes, it is safe to say every driver could likely use a refresher on traffic laws related to school buses. Now is the perfect time for drivers to be mindful of buses and how they can do their part to keep local children safe on their way to and from school each day.
- With 2,557 public schools and over 1,400,000 students in the system, a substantial number of children are transported to and from school on a bus daily throughout North Carolina.
- School buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road.
- School buses’ signature color is specifically designed to be highly visible.
- There are no seatbelts because school buses have strong, closely spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seatbacks to protect students in the event of a crash.
- Most school bus incidents happen when students are traveling to or from the bus stop or getting on or off the bus.
Understand the Laws
North Carolina drivers are required to observe certain laws when it comes to school buses:
- Drivers must stop for stopped buses with flashing red lights or an extended stop sign when approaching on a non-divided roadway. Traffic traveling in both directions must remain stopped until the bus begins to move again.
- The only time drivers do not have to stop is when the school bus is traveling in the opposite direction on a divided roadway with a median or barrier, or on a roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane.
Know the Penalties
With so much a stake, the penalties for disobeying traffic laws related to school buses are strict.
- Passing a stopped school bus is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries with it a $500 fine. Penalties increase for a subsequent conviction.
- If while passing a stopped school bus a motorist hits an individual, the offense will be classified as a felony.
- North Carolina also has laws specifically targeting speeding in a school zone. There is a mandatory $250 fine associated with this offense.
Do Your Part
- Slow down. Drivers should follow the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops.
- Pay attention. If a bus has yellow flashing lights, it is preparing to stop, children will be getting on or off the bus soon. Obey the laws in place for the safety of the students and always stop a safe distance away from the bus.
- Stay alert. Watch for children playing or congregating near stops. Keep an eye out for children running late and darting out to the bus stop. Take care when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage.
For Your Kids
Make sure you cover school bus safety with your children annually at back-to-school time. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Always stay on the sidewalk if able.
- If children must cross the street in front of a bus, they should make sure they are at least five giant steps ahead of the bus before crossing to make sure the bus driver can see them.
- A good rule of thumb is if a student can’t see the driver, the driver cannot see them.
- Children should line up at least five giant steps away from the bus when loading and ensure they do not get closer until the bus has stopped fully, the lights have come on, and the stop sign and crossing arm have extended.
- Students should always check for traffic once more before boarding, just in case.
- Use handrails when boarding/existing the bus and be careful of straps or drawstrings that can get caught in the door.