School Bus Safety Week begins October 21. It’s the perfect time for drivers to reflect on how to keep students safe from school bus traffic accidents all year long. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that from August 2018 to March 2019, 12 children were killed and another 47 were injured while getting on and off school buses nationwide. At the time of each accident, bus stop-arms were extended. In Virginia and all 49 other states, drivers are required by law to come to a complete stop when bus stop arms are extended. That’s why it’s important to remember the following information.
Tips for Drivers
- Slow down when approaching a school bus that is flashing its yellow warning lights.
- Stop at least 20 feet away from a school bus with its stop-arm extended.
- Wait for the stop-arm to retract and the red lights to stop flashing before moving your vehicle.
- Remember, drivers may not be able to see everyone who got off of the bus so proceed slowly.
- As always, don’t use a cell phone while driving to ensure you are not distracted.
Virginia School Bus Traffic Laws
- Drivers must stop for stopped school buses with flashing red lights and an extended stop sign when they approach from any direction on a highway, private road or school driveway.
- Vehicles must stop and remain stopped until all persons are clear and the bus moves again.
- You must also stop if the bus is loading or unloading passengers and the signals are not on.
- Drivers do not have to stop if they are traveling in the opposite direction on a roadway with a median or barrier dividing the road and the bus is on the opposite side of the median or barrier.
Penalties for Failing to Stop for a School Bus in Virginia
- The minimum fine for failing to stop for a school bus is $250.
- The violation is considered reckless driving and could be subject to a $2,500 fine.
- If you’re approaching a stopped school bus displaying flashing red lights, it is unlawful to pass it, even if the bus driver hasn’t extended the stop sign yet.
- If there is a median between you and the bus, you are allowed to pass the stopped school bus.
Be Mindful That Children Are Easily Distracted
As you are driving this school year, keep in mind that students are easily distracted, so drivers need to be extra aware around school buses. Students are often hit when distracted for the following reasons:
- They hurry to get on or off the bus.
- They act before they think and have little experience with traffic.
- They assume drivers will see them and will wait for them to cross.
- They don’t always stay within the bus driver’s sight.
- They drop something as they get off the bus and run into the path of the bus to pick it up.
Keep this safety information in mind to help keep our students in Hampton Roads safe all year round.