Passing a stopped school bus usually is a violation of traffic laws, which vary from state to state. Laws requiring motorists to stop in the vicinity of school buses are intended to prevent serious accidents involving children as they walk to and from the bus, often unpredictably. The following is a general primer on such laws, but check your state's traffic code, vehicle handbook, or department of motor vehicles guide for specifics.
Most state traffic laws require motorists to stop and wait for stopped school buses, which usually have blinking red rights and a swing-out stop sign, until they stop signaling and/or pull away. In some states, bus drivers may wave traffic on, even when a red light is flashing. Most laws also prohibit vehicles on the opposite side of a two-lane road from overtaking stopped school buses, which typically does not apply to divided or multiple-lane highways.
Differences in State School Bus Traffic Laws
State laws governing how motorists must respond when in the vicinity of a stopped school bus differ in a number of ways, including the required stopping distance from the bus and whether motorists on the opposite site of a divided highway must stop. Below is a sampling of some key states' laws:
Violators of these laws usually face fines, which escalate with successive offenses, up to the suspension of a driver's license for excessive citations.
For example, the state of Florida levies a $165 fine for a pass on the left-hand side of a bus, and a $265 fine for a pass on the right-hand side (where students enter and exit the bus). Second and subsequent violations of a left-hand pass violation result in another $165 fine and a minimum 90-day license suspension. A repeat violation of the right-hand pass rule results in another $265 fine, a minimum 180-day license suspension, and a mandatory hearing.
Legal Advice: Passing a School Bus
While state laws differ slightly, passing a stopped school bus almost always is a violation of traffic law. Check your local laws or speak with a local attorney for more clarity or if you believe you were unfairly cited for a violation. A traffic ticket lawyer can explain your options and help you decide whether to contest the alleged violation in court.