Most students in our region head back to school in the next few weeks. Of course, this means that we drivers will soon encounter more school buses during our daily travels.
When a driver encounters a school bus that is stopped to pick up or drop off students, the driver must stop at least 10 feet from the part of the school bus that is closest to the driver. If the bus is stopped on a one-, two- or three-lane road, all traffic in both directions must stop at least 10 feet away from the bus. This is because school buses on these roadways may be dropping off students on either side of the road.
The bus driver is responsible to not move the bus until students are no longer in the roadway. Only when the bus moves can the other drivers resume their travel.
Every school bus is required to have the automatically extending “stop” warning sign installed and functioning on the bus’s left side. Every school bus driver is required to use that sign at every stop other than at school buildings when students are loading or unloading the bus. However, the duty of drivers to stop is not affected if the “stop” warning sign does not work or is mistakenly not used in any particular stop.
For roads with four or more lanes, school buses must pick up the students on the students’ residential side of the street or road. Therefore, there should be no students traveling across traffic lanes, and drivers that are traveling the opposite direction of the school bus need not stop when the bus is stopped.
Enforcement of school bus traffic laws in Ohio is carried out in a variety of ways. Many buses now include cameras. Further, with the ability to make verbal notes on electronic devices, school bus drivers are now better positioned than ever at identifying vehicles that violate the school bus traffic laws. And, throughout the school year, law enforcement personnel regularly ride school buses to ensure drivers’ compliance with the stopping requirements.
The penalties for not stopping at all or not stopping beyond the prescribed distance from the school bus can include fines of up to $500 and license suspensions. Potentially even more impactful, drivers who are charged with violating Ohio school bus traffic laws cannot simply pay the fines and bear any license suspensions.
Drivers charged with violating Ohio school bus traffic laws must literally show up in court to explain their behavior to a judge. As a result, the time saved from even multiple violations of the school bus traffic laws is grossly outweighed by the inconvenience of having to spend hours away from work for one court hearing.
Nonetheless, much more important than penalties is safety. Especially at the beginning of the school year when students and bus drivers are most unfamiliar with their routines, students can be injured or killed if the law is not followed. In the context of school buses, patience is always the best policy.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.