How to Share the Road With a School Bus
As a driver in Los Angeles, you may encounter one or more school buses sharing the road with you. These buses are carrying precious cargo: children. It is critical for drivers to exercise extra care and caution when driving around school buses – especially when they are stopped. Driving negligently or recklessly around school buses can increase the risk of a pedestrian accident.
Reduce Your Speed
Slow down and be prepared to stop at any time when following or driving near a school bus. School buses make frequent stops to load and unload children. They may also operate at a lower speed than surrounding traffic. Speeding as a driver can increase the odds of a rear-end collision with the bus or striking a child who is entering or exiting a bus. Slowing down can allow you to stop a safe distance away from the bus or child.
Leave Ample Following Distance
Never tailgate, or drive too closely behind, a school bus. The school bus may suddenly stop or a child may run behind the back of the bus. The area 10 feet behind a school bus is the most dangerous for children. Stay back a safe distance to give them ample space to safely enter and exit the bus.
While you should never text and drive or drive distracted under any circumstances, it is especially important to remain alert and vigilant when near a school bus. School buses do not behave like standard motor vehicles. They may stop and start unexpectedly to load and unload children, as well as use special flashing lights and stop signs to direct surrounding traffic. Dedicate 100 percent of your attention to the road and your surroundings.
Recognize Bus Signals
As a motor vehicle driver, you have a legal responsibility to recognize, understand and obey signals presented by a school bus to prevent a bus accident. School buses must activate red lights at all stops. They may also activate amber flashing lights and an automatic stop sign. Flashing yellow lights warn drivers to prepare to stop while flashing red lights indicate that children are entering or exiting the bus.
You legally must stop your vehicle and remain stopped until a school bus’s lights stop flashing if the bus is on your side of the road. If the bus is on the other side of the road, you must stop unless the road is divided by a median or wall, or if there are two or more lanes of traffic traveling in each direction. You must also obey any hand signals given by a school bus driver. If you fail to stop for a school bus, you could face a fine of up to $1,000 and one year of driver’s license suspension.
Watch for Children
Where there is a school bus, assume there are children. Stay on the lookout for children near or around a school bus, such as kids walking to school using sidewalks and crosswalks, crossing the road, and potentially darting out into the road from between parked cars. If you enter a school zone, obey all signs and signals. Reduce your speed to an appropriate level. Watch for school buses and pay attention to their lights and signs.
Do Not Pass a Stopped School Bus
Never pass a stopped school bus. Passing a school bus that has stopped to allow children on or off is an illegal maneuver that puts children at high risk. Be patient, come to a complete stop and remain stopped until the bus’s lights are no longer flashing. You may pass a school bus if it is safe and legal to do so, as long as the bus is not stopped with flashing lights. Be sure you have sufficient space if attempting to pass a school bus. When in doubt, stay put and maintain a safe following distance. Passing a school bus to get to your destination faster is never worth putting children in danger.