As the school year heats up, the roads once again grow congested with school buses. While these buses are crucial for safely transporting our children to and from school each day, they also add an extra layer of complexity to our daily commute. School buses disrupt traffic patterns, and their hulking size makes it more difficult to view the road ahead.
PennDOT has clear rules on how to behave around school buses, especially when they’re stopped to pick up or drop off students:
- Drivers must stop at least 10 feet away when a school bus’s lights are flashing, yellow arm is extended, or stop sign is deployed.
- Drivers must remain stopped until the lights have stopped flashing, the yellow arm is withdrawn, and the stop sign is retracted.
- If a school bus stops at an intersection to load or unload children, all traffic from each direction must stop, regardless of whether they have a stop sign. Traffic may resume as usual once all children are safe and the school bus turns off its flashing lights and retracts its yellow arm and stop signs.
- You do not need to stop if you are in oncoming traffic and a physical barrier, such as a grassy median or a guide rail, separates you and the bus.
Failure to follow these rules can result in penalties, including:
- A $250 fine.
- Five points on your driving record.
- A 60-day license suspension.
To keep yourself safe, always maintain a safe distance when driving behind buses, and pay attention to School Zone signs, where fines and penalties become even more severe.
Driving Safely Around Public Buses
School buses aren’t the only buses on the road, however. The public bus fleet is also on the roads every day, and driving around them presents its own challenges.
Though you have greater legal protection if you’re in an accident with a public bus, you should still modify your behavior around them to remain safe. In the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual, PennDOT recommends you:
- Leave a longer following distance because the driver can’t see you unless you can see the mirrors.
- Pass buses quickly on the highway. They can have large blind spots.
- Buses may make wide right turns, especially in the city. Pay attention to their turn signals and leave them plenty of room to turn.
Most Pennsylvania jurisdictions will allow you to pass a public bus that is letting people on or off, provided that you’re on a road where passing is legal, like when there’s a dotted yellow line or a four-lane highway. However, the following conditions must also be met:
- You are not within 100 feet of an intersection or railroad crossing.
- You are not within 100 feet of any bridge, elevated structure, or tunnel.
- You are not approaching a curve or hill crest that restricts your view of oncoming traffic.
If you pass, proceed with caution. Riders who get off the bus may decide to immediately cross the street before the bus begins moving. If you aren’t careful, you could hit these individuals with your vehicle.
Buses add an extra layer of complexity to driving, but knowing the laws surrounding them makes the process much easier.
If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident involving a bus, contact Dugan & Associates. We’re here to help you get the check you deserve.