Illegal Passing: The Problem

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STOP Sign
It’s The Law

Every one of the 50 states has a law making it illegal to pass a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop–arm extended that is stopped to load or unload students. However, some motorists simply choose to ignore the law.

   • They might be coming toward the bus, decide that no students are crossing the road, and just keep going.

   • They might be behind the bus, pull into the left lane, and go around the bus.

   • They might be behind the bus, pull onto the shoulder, and pass the bus on the right.

All states require the traffic in both directions to stop on undivided highways when students are getting on or off a school bus. While wording varies from state to state, generally the law requires the following: The school bus driver activates flashing yellow lights to indicate the school bus is preparing to stop to load or unload students. At this point, motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. The school bus driver activates flashing red lights and extends the stop arm to indicate the school bus has stopped and students are getting on or off. At this point, motorists should stop.d

Proving the Law Was Being Violated

While the number of actual crashes caused by this violation is low, the potential for injury or death is high. For years, school bus drivers have been aware of, and have complained about, motorists illegally passing their school buses. In the mid-1990's several states conducted surveys to determine the actual extent of illegal passing. What they found was worse than they had imagined.

   • The School Transportation Management Section of the Florida Department of Education conducted a study in 1995 through the University of South Florida. On one day in May of that year, 10,590 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses in 58 of Florida’s 67 school districts. Since approximately 11,150 school buses participated in the survey, this meant an average of almost one illegal passing per school bus that day.
Best Practices Guide: Reducing the Illegal Passing of School Buses