The sight of a school bus stopped with its stop arm extended and lights flashing is a very familiar one. The bus is likely letting children off or on, who walk around the bus’s area, so the stop sign is necessary for safety. Most of us will see this sight regularly, whether on our morning drives to work or afternoon errand trips. The bus gives a clear reminder to stop, but what happens if you didn’t notice the sign or lights?
Passing a stopped school bus is punishable by a fine and jail time. In Wisconsin, this is punished with a fine between $30 to $300 and four points added to your driving record. However, in Indiana, there is a more severe fine of up to $10,000 and 60 days in jail. As you can see, there is a wide range of potential punishments, so read on for specifics in other states.
School Bus Laws
Most all cities and towns have laws in place specifying how vehicles must interact with school buses. This is because there are schools everywhere, and children need to be transported safely to and from school and school activities. It’s especially vital to have clear laws to ensure the safety of children being transported by buses since they stop so frequently. Also, children are not always careful and may run across the road without regard to traffic when getting on or off the bus.
Because of the need to protect children, it’s essential to know and follow the rules concerning school buses. There are very different laws regarding the punishments for passing a stopped school bus based on state. Here are some of the most major.
Colorado has specific laws addressing stopping for school buses:
- Drivers must stop a minimum of 20 feet from any school bus.
- Drivers cannot resume motion until the buses’ lights are no longer on.
Punishments for violations include fines of between $150 to $300 as well as a jail sentence of between 10 to 90 days. Punishments for a second offense within a 5-year period of a previous offense can result in a fine between $300 and $1,000 and a potential jail sentence of between 10 days up to a year. Additionally, offenses will result in six points being placed on your driving record.
Minnesota, like most states, has its own laws regarding school buses which we will list.
- Drivers must stop at least 20 feet away from a school bus with its red lights on or its stop arm extended. This applies to people driving on both sides of the road if the road is undivided.
- Driver do not need to stop for a school bus if they are on the opposite side of a divided highway.
- All drivers need to look for and stop for pedestrians crossing from any street corner whether there is a marked crosswalk or not.
Any driver who fails to stop for a school bus will face a $500 fine.
New Mexico has a harsh jail sentence for violation of its laws on stopping for school buses.
- Drivers are required to stop a minimum of 10 feet from a stopped school bus.
- Drivers are prohibited from proceeding until the buses’ signals are disabled or the school bus proceeds unless signaled otherwise by the bus driver.
Violations are considered a misdemeanor offense with a fine of up to $300 as well as a potential jail sentence of up to 90 days. Additionally six points will be applied to your driving record.
Punishment for passing a school bus in Mississippi is quite severe. First off, let’s look at the rules in this state.
- Drivers must stop a minimum of 10 feet away from a stopped school bus.
- A driver may not continue until all children have crossed the street or highway and the bus proceeds or the sign is retracted and lights are disabled.
The punishment for first offenses include a fine of between $350 and $750 as well as up to a one year jail sentence. Second offenses within a five year period will be punished by a fine between $750 and $1,500 as well as up to a one year jail sentence.
Indiana has no special rules pertaining to passing a school bus. However, it does have harsh sentences.
Passing a school bus is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 as well as up to 60 days in jail. Additionally, up to eight points will be added to your driving record.
New York has strict laws governing how cars interact with buses. We list the major laws below.
- Stop 20 feet away from the bus when its red lights are flashing.
- Stop for the bus even if you are going in the opposite direction on a divided highway. Most states do not require motorists to stop when traveling in this instance. But take care, this is the law in New York, and you could get a ticket or even jail time if you disobey it.
- Bus drivers can allow you to pass even with the red lights flashing. However, be sure the driver is signaling for you to pass, or you will be violating the law.
The fine for violating school bus traffic laws is $250 to $400 for a first offense. You’ll also get an automatic five points on your license and potentially 30 days in jail.
Texas has similar laws to the other states, but it has a very high fine.
- Stop for a school bus if its stop sign is extended or if the flashing red lights are on.
- A car does not need to stop if it is driving on the other side of a median.
If you break the school bus laws, you could be fined up to $1250.00.
If you break the school bus laws, you could be fined up to $1250.00. The fine will not be revoked even if you take defensive driving classes.
New Jersey school bus laws require a slightly larger stopping distance and have potential jail time for a violation like New York does.
- When a bus has its stop sign extended or its flashing red lights on, stop at least 25 feet away from the bus.
- You do not need to stop for a school bus if you are on the other side of the median. However, while passing the bus, even though you are on the other side of the median, you can only travel at a max of 10 mph.
For the first violation of these laws, you will get a $100 fine and up to 15 days in jail or 15 days of community service. You will also have five points added to your license. For further violations, the fine may increase to $250.
Ohio’s school bus laws are a bit different from some other state’s laws as far as when opposing traffic needs to stop for a school bus.
- Drivers from both directions are required to stop at least ten feet away from a stopped school bus when traveling on a road with less than four lanes. The bus does not need to extend a stop sign to stop traffic. The bus can use red flashing lights alone.
- If a driver is traveling on a road with at least four lanes, then only cars traveling in the same direction as the school bus must stop for the bus.
- Traffic that is stopped for a school bus may only start moving once the bus resumes movement or the bus driver waves traffic by.
- Bus laws for divided highways are the same as those for highways with four or more lanes.
Drivers who violate Ohio’s school bus laws may be fined $500 and have their licenses suspended. All drivers that violate school bus laws must attend a court hearing.
Connecticut has strict bus laws with harsh penalties, even for first offenses.
- Motorists are required to stop their car at least ten feet away from a bus displaying flashing red lights. This applies to vehicles coming from either direction. Drivers must remain stopped until the red flashing lights stop.
- Drivers at intersections are not allowed to turn toward a bus if students are boarding or offboarding.
The fine for violating traffic laws in Connecticut is a $500 to $1000 fine and a possible 30 days in jail. Also, four points will be added to the motorist’s license.
Wisconsin has a milder punishment for passing a school bus than most states. Here are the specific rules for this state.
- Drivers must stop a minimum of 20 feet from a stopped school bus.
- Drivers mustn’t proceed until busses return to motion or signals are no longer actuated.,
The punishment in this state is a fine of between $30 and $300 as well as four points added to your driving record.
To prevent accidentally passing a school bus in the future, you should be aware of some basic precautions to take. First, school buses are slow and make frequent stops. So, it’s necessary to be patient and not drive unsafely in an effort to go faster or quickly get past a school bus.
Try to be prepared for what other drivers will do, and always keep a safe distance from the school bus. Stay at least three car lengths away from a school bus when driving behind it. If you are driving on the road with a high-speed limit, increase this distance.
Drive defensively when you are around school buses. Don’t drive aggressively, no matter how much of a hurry you are in. Also, be prepared for vehicles around you that might not be taking proper precautions.
Remember, continue to take care even after the bus starts moving. Children will still be in the area. So, it’s always possible that they will run into the street.
Passing a school bus is considered a serious offense, and the punishments are severe. The law does not differentiate between whether it was an accident or intentional.
It is important to take care when driving around school buses as well as at school dismissal times. You not only should take care in order to avoid penalties, but also to prevent a tragic accident.