Back to school safety: Sharing the road with a school bus

School bus stop sign extended so driver's can see to stop

The new school year is approaching fast, and soon many kids will be relying on school buses to get to class. Fortunately, school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation for traveling to and from school (Safe Kids Worldwide). So though the everyday routine may not be as exciting as taking a ride on The Magic School Bus, students know they can rely on school bus drivers to get them to class both on time and safely.

The greatest dangers students face don't occur while riding the bus, but rather while boarding the bus. Negligent drivers who forget or ignore the rules that come with sharing the road with school buses are a major threat to students who need to cross the street to reach their ride. Even if you feel as if you are knowledgeable of all there is to know about school bus safety, a quick refresher on common school bus procedures is always a good idea.

To prepare for the new school year, here is a review of the different kinds of lights on school buses and how to react when you see them:

Hazard Lights – Proceed with caution.

Located towards the lower half of the bus near the taillights, the hazard lights begin flashing when a bus has stopped to let children aboard, but they won't be crossing the road to reach it. Motorists are allowed to pass the bus when these lights are on, but they are warned to be extremely cautious and alert while doing so.

Flashing red lights signal that all traffic in both directions must stop immediately.

Flashing Yellow Lights – Prepare to stop…

Bus drivers trigger the flashing yellow lights on the upper half of the bus as a warning that they are about to stop. They are typically activated about 200 feet prior to stopping. Once the bus actually stops, the flashing red lights will go on and all traffic will also be required to stop.

Flashing Red Lights – STOP!

The flashing red lights on the upper half of the bus, which may be accompanied by the protruding stop sign on the side, signal that all traffic in both directions must stop immediately. Whether you are driving behind the bus, in a lane going the opposite direction of a bus, or on a street intersecting the one the bus is on, it is imperative that you stop. It's illegal to pass a school bus while the red lights are flashing, for doing so would endanger the children who are boarding.

To learn more about school bus safety, check out these informative videos:

Understanding the Flashing Lights on School Buses

School Bus Stopping Procedures

It's vitally important to be alert and patient while driving near buses and in school zones. Children can be unpredictable, so you need to be prepared. You'll most frequently encounter school buses in the early morning and late afternoon, so plan ahead for slightly longer driving times and adjust your schedule accordingly. Lastly, remind others, especially new teen drivers, about the importance of school bus safety. When we all choose to make the safety of students our priority, it benefits the entire community.

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