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School Bus Stop Signage: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why are school bus stops usually located at corners?

A.

Several reasons make setting up a school bus stop at a corner a good choice. Not only are children generally taught to cross the street at corners and not in the middle of the street, traffic control devices such as stoplights and school parking signs are also often located at corners. These alert and slow down motorists as they approach intersections.

Additionally, road users generally expect school buses to stop at corners and are less likely to pass buses at corners than along a street. A corner school bus stop is much more visible to drivers than house numbers. Corner stops also give time to bus drivers to activate their warning system to alert motorists before getting to the stop.

Q. How do school bus stop signs work?

A.

School bus stop signs work by alerting motorists about bus stops where school children might be getting on or off the bus, thereby conveying the need to exercise caution when approaching. These signs are essential in ensuring compliance with applicable school bus-specific state laws, most of which prohibit crossing a stopped bus. The MUTCD recommends installing a school bus stop ahead sign (S3-1) in advance of school bus stops that may not be visible to road users for an adequate distance and cannot be relocated to command adequate sight distance.

Q. Are there any laws around school bus stops?

A.

Laws governing school bus stops vary across states and jurisdictions. The “stop-arm law” applicable in all states prohibits drivers from passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended to load or unload students. The law also defines and imposes penalties on violators.

Local jurisdictions may also have additional school bus stop regulations that cover aspects such as specific guidelines for kindergarten students, use of private roads and/or property, placements of stops on main arterials and cul-de-sacs as well as at corners/mid-block locations, the proximity of stops to railroad crossings , and provisions for providing transportation in hazard zones within a "no transport zone".

Please contact your local authority for more detailed and accurate information.

Q. What are the right-of-way rules concerning school buses?

A.

In most states, motorists are required by law to stop for a stopped school bus irrespective of whether they are approaching or are behind the bus on a non-divided roadway. Washington provides an exception to this rule and allows motorists to pass a stopped bus on a roadway with at least three lanes, provided the motorist is in an opposing lane. A similar exception exists in Ohio but the roadway must have four or more lanes for the exception to apply.

Where it is a divided highway, motorists are not required to stop for a stopped school bus as long as they are in opposing traffic lanes. This rule does not apply to West Virginia, Mississippi, New York State, and Arkansas.

Q. What is a stop-arm camera on a school bus?

A.

Stop-arm cameras are safety devices used by schools on school buses to protect students crossing the street to reach the bus or their home. A stop-arm camera captures images of front and back license plates as well as the face of the driver, thereby facilitating the identification of traffic rule violators.

Stop-arm violations attract pretty harsh penalties in most states and thus, stop-arm devices act rather well in discouraging potential violators.

Q. Can a person be jailed for passing a school bus?

A.

As laws around school bus stops are different across states, so are the penalties for violation. These penalties could be in the form of fines ranging from $30 to $10,000, license suspension, and a prison sentence. The prison sentence may be awarded on the first violation in some states and on repeated violations in others, and the length of the sentence also varies.

For instance, states such as Mississippi and Missouri impose a year-long maximum sentence for a first conviction. Louisiana requires violators to serve a 6-month sentence, Alaska a 90-day sentence, Delaware a 30-60 day sentence, Iowa a 30-day sentence, Wyoming a 20-day sentence, and New Jersey a 15-day sentence, at the most.

Q. Is there any school bus stop sign-specific guidance provided by MUTCD?

A.

MUTCD Section 7B.13 talks about installing school bus stop ahead signs in advance of locations where a school bus that stops to load or unload students is not visible to road users for an adequate distance and where it is not possible to relocate the school bus stop to provide adequate sight distance.

Standards and guidance about the size of school bus stop ahead signs and other requirements in terms of retro-reflectivity or illumination, design, and colors to be used are also provided.

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