As auto accident lawyers we are often asked questions about “the rules” of the road. What is legal, what isn’t. One question I have found myself answering more than a few times is when to stop for a stopped school bus. (See our easy-to-follow bus infographic.)
The better question to answer in my opinion is how to drive safely near schools and when school children are nearby.
When Do I Stop for a School Bus?
If you are unsure of exactly which situations require you to stop for a stopped school bus, you are not alone. During a one-day study conducted by the North Carolina School Bus Safety Web in 2013, more than 3,300 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses.
The penalty for not stopping carries a minimum fine of $500, as stated in House Bill 428 (Hasani N. Wesley Students’ School Bus Safety Act). Passing a stopped school bus is not only illegal but also dangerous for children who may be entering or exiting the bus.
As a rule of thumb, drivers behind the school bus should always stop, regardless of whether they are in the same lane as the bus or not.
With a couple of exceptions, drivers on the opposite side of the road must also stop for a stopped school bus. Traffic traveling in the opposite direction is not required to stop, ONLY if driving on a four-lane road with a median separation, divided highway, or center turning lane. However, four-lane roads without median separation or turning lanes, and all two-lane roads – with or without center turning lanes – require that all traffic on either side of the road come to a complete stop until the school bus resumes motion.
Driving Near School Busses
In addition to knowing when to stop for a stopped school bus, drivers should take additional precautions when sharing the road with school buses. The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends leaving a greater following distance behind buses than you would behind other cars, allowing you adequate time to stop when necessary.
The NSC also warns that “the area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children.” The organization recommends that drivers stop with a generous space between the bus and their vehicles to allow school children to enter and exit the bus as needed.
Keep in mind that because school buses are so large, drivers have limited visibility of surrounding cars and may not be able to see you. You should take this into consideration and yield to school buses when changing lanes and turning.
Look Out for Pedestrians
More than one-third of the children killed in school-transportation related crashes between 2006 and 2015 were pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In North Carolina drivers must yield to pedestrians at all intersections and driveways.
School-aged children may be unpredictable or may not know the specific rules of when to cross a street. Therefore, drivers should use extreme caution and be prepared to stop at any given time when traveling through school zones and surrounding areas and neighborhoods.
The only thing children should have to worry about on their journey to school is whether or not they will pass their algebra test!
NC Personal Injury Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation
Getting hurt on the way to school is something no one should have to go through alone. There can be extensive medical bills and issues with the insurance company. You want someone to fight for you to try to recover everything you are potentially due in damages.
Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer to represent them received 3.5X more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own.3
3Insurance Research Council, 1999.