James M. Wagman, Attorney at Law
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Harsh penalties for failing to stop for school buses

In a matter of days, New York schools will open their doors, and teachers and students will settle into another year of discovery and learning. Your children may already be expressing excitement or dread over the new year, and you are preparing for those first chaotic mornings as you jump back into your routine.

You are certain to have many mornings when things do not go smoothly, and you find yourself rushing out the door, late for work again. The last thing you need is to get stuck behind a school bus that seems to stop at every block to pick up kids. However, think carefully before you attempt to pass that bus. You may face consequences that go beyond a traffic ticket.

The law and its penalties

The laws in every state vary, but in general, when a school bus stops to pick up or let out children, vehicles in front or behind the bus must stop and wait. Lights at the top of the bus will flash yellow to warn you the bus is about to stop. Then they will flash red until the child is safely on or off the bus. Most buses also have stop arms that extend from the driver's side of the vehicle.

These are real traffic signals that you must obey, just like a posted stop sign or red light. Violating these laws even one time can result in the following consequences:

  • A fine between $250 and $400
  • The potential for up to 30 days in jail
  • Five points on your license
  • Higher fines and penalties for repeat offenders
  • Much more serious consequences if a child is injured

More school systems are allotting funds to attach cameras to stop arms to records drivers who pass buses. Daily, about 50,000 drivers ignore the flashing lights and stop signs and drive past busses that are loading or unloading children.

Stay alert

Now that the school year is underway, you can expect to see more police officers watching for motorists who illegally pass school buses. Some officers may even ride on the buses. However, the rules for when and where to stop can be complicated. For example, in some jurisdictions, you must stop for a bus on the opposite side of a divided highway, and in others, you only need to stop if you are on the same side as the bus.

It is important that you know the rules and where you can turn for legal help if you are charged with passing a school bus. Because the penalties are harsh, you will want to fight for your rights.

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