Safety Around School Buses
The weather may be cooling off, the sun is lower when we leave the office, and yellow menaces are back on the road, all signs that children are back in school. Now, while you may lament the added traffic and curse the day you leave after the bus, making you 20 minutes late for work, there are a lot of rules when it comes to schools and driving.
When I was commuting in from my parent’s house, there’s a one lane road I went down to get to the entrance of 395 North. If I left even 2 minutes late or hit one traffic light on the way to this road, I would get stuck behind a school bus that would stop every 50 feet. It was seriously frustrating. Even the dulcet tones of “Let it Go” couldn’t calm my inner anxiety and exasperation. I would watch as people tried to get around the bus, or would attempt to keep going even as the stop sign protruded from the side. I could empathize with these people, but I could never act in the same reckless manner. Plus, I was confused, if I’m on the opposite side of the road, do I need to stop? Children’s well-being hung in the balance. So, I did a little digging. What are the rules for driving during the school year?
First, in 2015 alone, there were 476 citations for passing stopped school bus according to Fairfax County Police Department. Virginia Code states that any driver who fails to stop for a school bus that is loading or discharging students is guilty of reckless driving. That’s right. If a school bus has stopped you must also stop. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving in the opposite direction. If you share the road with a school bus, your movement depends on the actions of the bus. There is one exception, and that is if you’re on the other side of a divided highway. But there must be a median or some form of separation between the roads. A double yellow line or a center turning lane do not count as adequate separation. When buses are stopping they must have warning lights and a stop sign, but if for some reason the lights fail to flash or the stop sign fails to engage, the drives must stop if the doors are open and children are entering or exiting.
Drivers must also be careful and pay attention to school zones. Signs for school zones usually encompass the area of the school and 600 feet outside either end of the school. They must be marked by permanent flashing signs, which are turned on 30 minutes before the start of the school day and left on until 30 minutes after the end of the school day. The speed limit in the area is 25 miles per hour. Speeding or improper driving is not automatically reckless driving but may be if the actions constitute a danger to life.
Moral of this blog? Don’t drive recklessly around school buses. When in doubt, just stop if the bus has stopped. The potential consequences aren’t worth the minute you may save on your drive. Plus it’s always fun to make faces at the kids on the bus.
Check out your local government website for more information! (www.fairfaxcounty.gov)