School Bus Safety Issues

by William Jorden on June 14, 2011

by Harry Faber White, II, Esquire

It is the beginning of another school year and school busses are everywhere. The Pennsylvania Vehicle Code has numerous sections relating to the maintenance, operation and licensings of school busses. Other statutes regulate the conduct of vehicles approaching, meeting or overtaking a school bus.

Any driver approaching a school bus when the red signal lights are flashing and the side stop signal arm is activated, must stop at least 10 feet away from the bus. The driver may not proceed until the flashing red signal lights are off and all children who have alighted from the school bus have reached a safe place.

Any driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking a school bus when the amber signals are flashing, may proceed past the bus, but only with caution and must be prepared to stop immediately.

The amber visual signals are required to be activated by the driver of every school bus, not more than 300 feet nor less than 150 feet prior to making a stop for the purposes of loading or unloading school children. The amber signals shall remain on until the red visual signals are activated. The red visual signals must be activated whenever the vehicle is stopped on a highway for the purpose of receiving or discharging children, and shall not be terminated until the children have either reached a place of safety off the bus, or have boarded the bus.

The red signals are not required at intersections or other places where traffic is controlled by a uniformed police officer or appropriately attired person authorized to direct, control or regulate traffic.

When a school bus is being operated on a highway for purposes other than the actual transportation of school children for a school activity, all markings including school bus shall be covered or concealed. During such a trip, the flashing visual signal shall not be activated.

If in fact, a driver fails to stop when required under the above regulations, the operator of the school bus should prepare a signed written report indicating information relating to the identity of the alleged violator, the license number, the color of the vehicle, time and approximate location of the violation, and shall deliver that report within 48 hours after the violation occurs to a police officer having jurisdiction in the area where the violation occurred.

Any driver convicted of failing to stop for a school bus with flashing red lights receives a mandatory 60 day license suspension and 5 points.

A driver must stop for a bus with flashing red lights in the opposite traveling lanes of a four-lane highway, unless the opposing lanes are separated by a physical barrier or median. In Crawford County, that means you must stop for a school bus with flashing red lights in the opposing lanes of Route 322 between Meadville and Conneaut Lake.

Finally, Pennsylvania’s new DUI Statute convicts any individual who drives a school bus, if his or her blood alcohol is .02 or greater within 2 hours after driving a school bus.

As always, pay attention. When in doubt while approaching a school bus, slow down so that you can stop as required. Generally, everyone has good intentions, but being late for work or similar situations lead to drivers taking unnecessary risks around school busses. Remember, children are unpredictable and quick, and can end up where they’re not supposed to be in a hurry. Also remember that the school bus driver generally has his or her hands full with a bus load of boisterous children.

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