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Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs reminds motorists . . .There are specific Rules of the Road when it comes to School Buses

Friday, August 31, 2012

Motorists must stop when a school bus flashes its red lights – It’s the law in NYS

As summer winds down, children across Erie County are heading back to school and the “Yellow School Buses” once again dot our highways. For some 138,000 elementary and secondary students in Erie County, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. Many children will be going to school for the first time and may not be careful when crossing the street or running to catch the bus. Older children know the routine, but may forget in their excitement to catch up with friends.

Unfortunately each year some bus trips to school end in tragedy -- children are injured or killed in school bus incidents when motorists fail to follow the rules of the road. An easily preventable statistic is that more children are hurt outside the bus than inside by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus. Although drivers are required to stop for a school bus when it is stopped to load or unload passengers, children should not rely on them to do so, a fact that parents should discuss with their children.

The rules of the road in New York State are specific when it comes to school buses. When a stopped school bus flashes its red lights, traffic approaching from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots, must stop at least 20 feet away before reaching the bus. The bus is easily identified by a “SCHOOL BUS” sign, the red lights on top, and its unique yellow/orange color. Before a school bus stops to load or unload passengers, the school bus driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. That is the time to slow down and prepare to stop. You may not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer waves traffic on. This law applies on all roadways in New York State even when driving on the opposite side of a divided highway.

After stopping for a school bus, watch for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until you have passed them. Most school-bus related deaths and injuries occur while children are crossing the street after leaving the bus, not in a collision involving school buses. The fine for passing a stopped school bus ranges from a minimum of $250 for the first violation to a maximum of $1,000 for three violations in three years. A conviction places 5 POINTS on your driver’s license and may result in increased insurance premiums. If convicted of three violations in three years, your license will be revoked for a minimum of six months.

School is back in session -- be prepared to be on your best driving behavior, and watch out for children approaching or exiting school buses.