Antonio always left too late for work. His job was exactly 12 minutes away on a good day. He knew this because he had timed the commute. His shift started in 10 minutes and he frantically sped towards the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, NY. Two blocks from work he encountered stopped cars. He angrily muttered, “Why are they stopped?!” He made the split-second decision to pass them in the left turn lane. What he did not know or see, but soon realized, was that the cars had stopped for a stopped school bus. Had the children been any closer to the middle of the street, he would have plowed through the group of them. Many years have passed since this incident, but a sick feeling always overwhelms Antonio when he recalls how he could have killed those children.
As another school year is scheduled to begin, it is important to refresh our memory of the traffic law regarding school buses. These laws keep our children safe as they travel to and from school. Keep in mind that most injuries and deaths occur when children are crossing the street after exiting the bus. Please slow down until you have passed them. Violations of traffic laws regarding school buses carry a steep penalty. A conviction for failing to stop for a school bus carries a 5-point penalty, maximum fine of $1,000 after a third offense in three years, and your driver license will be revoked for a minimum of 6 months after a third offense in three years. Additionally, the Driver Responsibility Assessment fine is charged when convicted of 6 points or more within an 18-month period.
What then are the traffic laws regarding stopped school buses, and what vehicles are considered school buses? A school bus is painted yellow-orange, has red lights on top, and a “SCHOOL BUS” sign. Included under the protection of school bus traffic laws are vehicles that transport disabled persons. On all roadways in New York State, when a stopped school bus flashes its red lights, traffic that approaches from either direction, even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway, must stop at least 20 feet away from the bus. This applies even in front of the school and in school parking lots. When the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you can begin driving again.